Social entrepreneurship and study abroad motivate Maddy Menard ’22 to think bigger

Early inspiration: Maddy Menard’s interest in wide-ranging cultural experiences through international travel has been ingrained since elementary school. She has traveled with her family to every continent except Antarctica. Her father, Robert, works as a plastic surgeon for Smile Train and other worldwide non-profit organizations pro bono. A trip in sixth grade to Botswana—and a tour through the Mookane Village—left a lasting impression. “We were taken to a school, but there were no students. They could only hold classes a few times per week because the kids had to work,” she said. “As we looked around, the children were making walls and carrying huge piles of bricks on their heads instead of being in class learning. I just remember how shocked we were at the cultural differences, and how the expectations of the children abroad were so different than how we were expected to act.”

  • Maddy Menard ’22
  • Hometown: Los Altos, California
  • Major: Government with legal studies sequence
  • Activities: Attacker on the CMS water polo team, co-president of the Girls International Fund for Tomorrow

Giving a GIFT: In sixth grade, Menard began volunteering with the Bay Area chapter of the National Charity League, a national non-profit that fosters mother-daughter relationships through community service, leadership, development, and cultural experiences. Because of her trip to the Mookane Village that same year, she also wanted to volunteer internationally. In high school, Menard and her sister, Kendall—a soon-to-be NCAA Division I diver—formed their own non-profit, the Girls International Fund for Tomorrow (GIFT).

The Menard sisters are co-presidents of GIFT, and have focused their efforts on empowering young women through education. They’ve raised a little more than $10,000 to provide funds for schools in India and orphanages in Myanmar. On a trip to a school for the deaf in Nagercoil, India, Menard met a child named Dabila who suffered from a craniofacial deformity. Other students bullied Dabila, so GIFT raised funds for her facial corrective surgery. “That’s my favorite story, because it empowered Dabila to engage in her society to the best of her ability. I remember how happy she was just to be cared for and have someone be kind to her,” Menard said.

Next steps: Throughout her first year, Menard has been impressed by CMC’s collaborative culture with regards to social entrepreneurship. She has her eye on “enhancing GIFT’s impact” through peer connections and partnerships with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Kravis Lab for Social Impact. “It’s an eye-opening experience to be able to talk with other CMC students about their ideas for NGOs, what they are trying, what works, and what doesn’t,” she said. “GIFT has just been two sisters doing their best with limited experience and good intentions. But with the resources and learning opportunities on campus, I am hoping that we can start growing and take steps to have an even bigger impact internationally.”

Choosing CMC: As a first-year member of the Athenas water polo team, Menard has played in every match this season and is a valuable contributor (her 30 steals are one short of the team lead). She had her pick of collegiate water polo destinations, but chose CMC because Coach Lonzo believes in letting students explore opportunities beyond athletics. “It goes back to my love of travel. It was really important to me that I play competitively but still get to study abroad, pursue all of my passions,” Menard said. Recently selected as an Appel fellow, she’ll start acquiring miles this summer with a trip to Tuscany for a photojournalism series that captures the culture of “historic soccer” in rival Italian provinces. As part of the Freshman Humanities Seminar at CMC, Menard also took Sport and Spectacle with Professor Moffett, along with Italian at Scripps College. “For me, receiving the Appel Fellowship brought my first year at CMC full circle,” she said.

Chris Watts