O'Fallon senior scholar athletes Cassidy Lurk and Joel Lindsey have earned the O'Fallon Township High School April student of the month honor for going above and beyond across the board with academic, sports and community endeavors.
"It was such an honor to be chosen as student of the month. I've just worked so hard through high school and it's starting to finally pay off — it's just super exciting," Cassidy said.
Cassidy said there are "a lot of other qualified people in my grade" who could be recognized, too, but she thinks her wide variety of involvement in extracurricular activities, while maintaining high honors, is what contributed to her being selected by her OTHS teachers and administration for the monthly honor.
"Being student of the month is a huge honor for myself. O'Fallon's a very competitive high school, and to be named ... it shows my hard work that I put in at school and in all the extracurricular activities that I do," Lindsey said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
Joel said, "I like to apply myself 100 percent in all of my classes, and I think that really led to me being student of the month."
He said he studies in numerous "very challenging" honors classes while still juggling involvement in extracurricular activities, like varsity lacrosse, "really helped me standout as a candidate."
Joel is the son of Brian and Connie Lindsey, of O'Fallon. He has three siblings: Amber, Brianna and Connor.
Serving as the senior class president for the National Honors Society is rewarding, but time consuming, Joel said.
Voted into his NHS role by his peers, Joel said, "It was a huge leadership responsibility, but it really helped me give back to the community."
He was charged with service projects and coordination of programs.
"So it really helps me give back to O'Fallon, because O'Fallon gave so much to me as I was raised," he said.
"Being diverse in all your activities ... and not putting all your eggs in one basket," is the key to success, according to Joel.
Joel is no stranger to honorable recognitions. He is an Illinois State Scholar and Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout Award. He was also nominated for the Lewis & Clark Council Eagle Scout of the Year.
But, the honors don't come easy.
"It takes hard work and consistency," he said.
Joel's Eagle Scout project was for the O'Fallon Garden Club, building one of the gravel pathways at the Community Garden at the corner of Smiley and State streets.
"It's really nice for you to take a break and relax in a garden in the middle of O'Fallon ... and it's for all the gardeners who are out there producing food for the O'Fallon Food Pantry, and for all the people who are wanting to go on a walk," he said.
Joel takes volunteering in his community very seriously with previous work at the Rock Community Center Repair, Helping Hands, Congressional Leadership Fund and the Midwest Wingfest 5k run event, as well as acts as a mentor to eighth graders during orientation.
Being a role model to youth at his church, Christ United Methodist Church, is important to him.
"I teach second-grade Sunday school there each and every Sunday morning," Joel said.
According to Joel, "It's a nice way to give back, because they really helped me become strong in my faith. And so, by helping produce young Christians, it really makes me feel good."
He is also a swim instructor at the O'Fallon YMCA.
Other extracurricular activities in which Joel participates include: Ultimate Frisbee Club, Robotics Club, High School Leadership Counsel, French Club, Boy Scouts of America Troop 46, Model UN and Friends of Rachel Club. He is also a lacrosse camp volunteer.
When he's not hitting the books or fields, Joel said he relaxes by playing Rock Band on his Xbox with his dad, brother or friends.
"I was never musically talented. I only played saxophone for one year in middle school. ... It's just a fun way that helps me with my finger coordination, which helps with lacrosse," Joel said.
Joel said he wants to be a pilot, possibly in the United States Air Force. He did received the presidential, congressional and senatorial nominations to the USAF Academy, but he is leaning elsewhere.
"I've narrowed it down to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University down in Florida, Colorado School of Mines, and Iowa State University."
Cassidy is the daughter of Carl and Dawn Lurk, of O'Fallon. She has one sibling, Dylan, who attends Purdue University.
"I just want to thank everyone who has gotten me here — my parents, my brother. He's a big one, Dylan Lurk; what a great guy. My teachers, my coaches and friends who have surrounded me and inspired me to do the best that I can and pushed me to get to the great places that I've gone," Cassidy said.
Serving as senior class secretary for the National Honors Society is a role Cassidy enjoys. She also is a member of the French Honors Society, as well as served as a St. Clair County Teen Court juror.
Cassidy has been "trying really hard to do the best" at OTHS, she said.
She encourages others to "enjoy every single moment in high school."
"Because, pretty soon you're going to be limited, and you're gonna look back and like (wonder): 'Where have my past four years gone?'" she said said.
"The best experience in high school" was being a soloist dancer among the 220-strong OTHS Marching Panthers at the Grand Nationals field show.
"I was so lucky to be apart of it. I came in two months before they went to Grand Nationals. I had to learn everything and how marching band actually works. It was kinda of crazy, but I got it done," Cassidy said.
Dancing for 13 years, Cassidy said she "gave some of the best performances ever" at the fall show with her best friends by her side.
It was a "record breaking" performance in early November 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana, she said. The Marching Panthers earned the highest-ever finish and placement.
"It was an honor to be a part of that. It was such an amazing experience," Cassidy said.
Cassidy studies and teaches at the Taylor Academy of Dance. She has earned a nomination for the National Dance Association All American Team and was honored as an Illinois Drill Team Association Rising Star. But the honors don't stop there, as she also is an Illinois State Scholar recipient, a Greater Belleville Area Youth Salute finalist, had an essay published in the school magazine called, "Endeavors" and was recently highlighted as the Memorial Hospital Athlete of the Week.
According to Cassidy, free time is very limited, but she likes to run when she's not dancing, volunteering, studying or helping peers.
"I'm a pretty active person," she said.
Her "biggest dream" is to be an astronaut someday. She likes to watch YouTube videos about space "because I'm a real nerd about that stuff," she said.
Cassidy said she will be attending Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana, to study chemical engineering.
"I either hope to go into the food dye and, like, food additives industry to develop more natural substitutes for them, or I could go a completely different route and go into the more physical aspect of chemistry and physics and look at astronomy and observe the universe," she said.
Other extracurricular activities in which Cassidy participates include: varsity Golden Girls dance team, track and field, Robotics Club, Blizzard mentor (for incoming students), Saturday Scholars, WYSE University of Illinois Engineering Camp and Friends of Rachel Club. She is also a youth group leader at her church and a Relay For Life volunteer.