WHEATON – Like so many siblings, anything Michael O’Malley’s older brother Daniel did, he wanted to do better.
“I always had the inner drive that if I was doing something and he was doing something, I had to do it better,” Michael said. “I don’t know why, but it helped me keep on track.”
Recently, like older brother Daniel, Michael was awarded Eagle Scout status after he built four, 12-unit cubbies to store backpacks and supplies at the Boy Scout cabins in the forest near his Wheaton home. Michael has been a lifelong scout, and said he was conflicted about his achievement.
“It felt really good to say all that work could be put to something, but it felt weird for it all to be over,” he said. “As I’ve been talking to other former Scouts and leaders, I want to come back and do more. Because I’m not ready to give it up completely.”
Michael, a recent graduate of Wheaton North High School, was involved in other activities in addition to Scouting. His father, Mike, said that he played soccer, cross country and was a starting defender for the lacrosse team at North before a dislocated kneecap forced him give up everything but track and cross country.
He also succeeded academically and as a member of local volunteer organizations. He was named to the DuPage Valley Conference All-Academic Team in track, was a member of the National Honor Society, was in the Math Honors Society and spent more than 150 hours tutoring students in math during his lunch breaks. He hopes to take that interest in helping others and in math with him to the University of Illinois James Scholar program and to become a teacher.
Balancing a range of endeavors was challenging, Michael said, but it was important to him.
“It was really hard through high school and middle school, and I did consider dropping out of Scouts and some other stuff,” he said. “But I decided that if I did really try to give a real effort and give time to all the things I was doing, I could do all of it and do it well.”
His mom, Lou Ann, smiled when she heard Michael say that he competed with his brother, who also is studying at the University of Illinois.
“He does, but he has a good heart. He’s always open to trying new things, even sticking with things he isn’t good at,” she said. “They have been very supportive, and they will be just five minutes apart on campus next year.”
Michael said he appreciates the commitment he made to Scouting and all the lessons it taught him, including leadership. His experience in Scouts and as someone who considered dropping out of it puts him in a good place to advise others, he said.
“Even as a younger scout I had to pick up slack wherever I was needed to help out the troop, even if I wasn’t comfortable doing it,” he said. “I want to help younger scouts stay in the troop and help with their advancement and help them progress like I did.”