St. Michael Junior Recognized for Outstanding Mission Work

Glance over Julia Coffey’s resume and you will easily notice that she has done more than just set the standard for exemplary volunteering. Despite her ranking as only a junior in high school, she has completed a total of nine mission trips plus the March for Life excursion. From working with Revive 225 and women’s shelters in Texas to rebuilding schools internationally, Coffey embodies the charism of ministerium, or “serve like Christ.” As the recipient of the 2021 Outstanding High School Volunteer Award from the Greater Baton Rouge State Fair Foundation, she was recognized for her model volunteer service within her school and throughout the community.

Her passion for volunteering began modestly at a young age, when her grandmother, Cooky, asked her if she would like to join in serving food to a mission group visiting the First United Methodist Church. “My grandmother has been my biggest influence,” explains Coffey. “She asked me to go volunteer with her for the United Methodist Women’s Group when I was in middle school, and I loved meeting all these people from different places.” But Cooky’s influence did not stop at just local service. She, too, has been on multiple trips abroad with different mission groups, setting a precedence that her granddaughter sought to follow. This idea of doing such hands-on mission work captured Coffey’s attention, even before she entered high school. “My grandmother has picture albums that have photographs from all her mission trips to places like Cambodia and Africa,” shares Coffey. “I always told her I wanted to go with her one day.”

Knowing she has been a huge inspiration in Coffey’s life, Cooky acknowledges that her own passion has always been mission work. She says that she has been thrilled watching her granddaughter grow up to embody this effort as well. “Julia would stay with me when she was little and I would take her to church whenever we had volunteer work to do,” shares Cooky. “Then one day she heard me talking about Cambodia – I have been twice – and she wanted to do that, too. So, when Julia was 16, she went to Cambodia, even though I could not join her, and she just loved it. She especially loved the children there. She appreciates traveling, she enjoys helping people and she loves to spread the word of God. Mission work is her passion; and I understand that. It is the only way I can explain it,” emphasizes Cooky.

Coffey says that another big turning point in her initiative to help people was right after the 2016 shootings in Baton Rouge. “It just hit so close to home and my family,” says Coffey. “I was 12…about to turn 13 and I felt this huge calling to just go out and serve my community. I told my mom I wanted to go work for Revive 225 the rest of the summer because the mission groups that were supposed to come started canceling their trips. I wanted to help rebuild and fix houses from the flood for those who could not afford it.” And so she did. From roofing and drywall to painting and flooring, Coffey committed herself to working for her community the entire summer before her 8th grade year at Our Lady of Mercy.

“I was not going to tell her no,” shares her mother, Laura Coffey. “Julia came to me and said, ‘Mom, I need to work,’ and it was my first time having to put her completely in God’s hands. It is hard to let your daughter go into parts of town that are struggling in such high-tension times, but I could tell it was something she was being called to do. I knew (and continue to know), that this is God’s work, so He will take care of her.” Throughout Coffey’s other mission trips (which include Costa Rica, Cambodia, Oklahoma, Texas, and Florida), Laura continues to put her faith in God to protect her daughter.

Most recently, in these uncertain times around the world, Coffey has attended a virtual mission trip for the Navajo Tribe in Oljato, UT, speaking with them about their struggles with medical care and cleaning supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic. She plans to take an in-person trip this summer to continue her work with them, pending the lifted travel restrictions.

Coffey’s joy for living life fully and involvement in extracurriculars does not stop with mission trips and service. At St. Michael High School, she participates in three different sports and six different clubs. Though she is not quite set on where she wants to attend college yet, she does know that she wants to pursue a career in travel nursing and continue serving God’s mission through helping those in need.