O’Fallon Township High School seniors Skylar Blair and Matthew Gilster are the students of the month for December for reasons beyond what’s reflected in their academic successes.
If they aren’t volunteering at their local church, St. Nicholas Catholic Church in O’Fallon, or hitting the books, the OTHS honorees are staying active with their school athletic teams.
Skylar is the daughter of David Bair, and Niki and Tom Hollerich of O’Fallon. Skylar has two younger brothers, Carson Bair, an OTHS junior, and eighth-grader Tanner Hollerich.
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“I’m extremely grateful to be chosen as student of the month, because there are so many outstanding students here at OTHS,” Skylar said.
Ranking eighth in her senior class, Skylar said she was driven to achieve.
“I really push myself very hard to get my grades where they are,” she said.
Skylar said she maintains her educational edge with her other extracurricular activities, like Saturday Scholars, National Honors Society and National Spanish Honors Society.
“Saturday Scholars is where we listen and hear from different professional people and also go on field trips, and that’s a lot of fun,” Skylar said.
Not only does Skylar hold a seat on the Leadership Council, she also is an Illinois Student Association Commission Scholar.
Being captain of the varsity Golden Girls Dance team is one of her favorite leadership roles, along with Student Council vice president.
“Through student council, I was given the opportunity to be on the Leadership Council, where we learn about the different leadership styles and how to help our our clubs and sports teams,” Bair said.
Skylar’s other honors include being Scholar Athlete, the Spanish Bilingual Commendation, and High Academic Honor Roll. She was elected homecoming queen.
Among her hobbies, Skylar enjoys horseback riding, volunteering at a local soup kitchen, and spearheading choreography for the Little Panthers Cheer groups.
“I love hiking and going to new places. I want to go to Mizzou, then go to medical school to become a dermatologist,” Skylar said.
Skylar has been modeling for about three years, accruing 20-25 jobs annually, mostly in St. Louis, Mo. or Miami, Fla.
“I travel all around the country and a couple of places overseas. This past summer, I got to do a charity fashion show that benefited the kids in Venezuela, so that was really cool,” she said.
She is a Nickfest volunteer, too, and works at Gator’s Frozen Custard in O’Fallon.
Matthew is the son of Thomas and Meg Gilster of O’Fallon. Matthew has two older sisters, who he said, are his role models. Tori attends the United States Air Force Academy, and Noelle attends Northeastern University.
“Getting this award is absolutely incredible, because there’s only a handful of students who out of the entire class who get it each year… It means a lot to see that all of the work that I’ve put in, both in school and out of school, in everything I’ve done is paying off,” he said.
After only taking the ACT twice, Matthew landed himself in the high-scoring group of seniors with a 34.
Motivated to “do his best,” Matthew said, he balances his studies with athletics and academic clubs and organizations.
“Honestly, there’s been quite a lot that I’ve had to do. I’ve run. I’ve biked. I’ve joined a bunch of organizations,” he said.
Matthew’s activity and club involvement include cross country, track, math team, WYSE team, Philosophy Club, Fellowship Christian Athletes, St. Nicholas Youth Group, and the Korte Hammer Down Cycling Team.
Matthew’s other honors include National Honor Society; the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, which he won last year and this year; being on the WYSE sectional winnering team for math and physics. He was on the Homecoming court, too.
“I try to volunteer as much as I can, (and) it’s mainly religiously based,” he said.
He is a St. Nicholas Parish School of Religion teen helper, volunteer for Luke 18 youth retreats and a mission trip volunteer.
Matthew isn’t 100 percent sure on what his OTHS post-graduation plans are just yet, but he is working ironing out details.
“I do have a list of about seven colleges that I am applying to, including MIT and Berkley, just for long shots to see if I make it. But I have some more down-to-earth ones, like Northeastern and the University of Washington,” he said.
Engineering is the field of study he hopes to pursue.
“We’ll see which type. I’m not exactly sure which I like the best, but all of these places let me keep my options open. So I can explore when I get there,” Matthew said.
In his spare time, he also plays the piano and guitar, and he works two sales jobs — one at Toolen’s Running Start in Shiloh and the other at Allegro Appa.