‘The community made you who you are, you have to give back’

From wrestling to physics to entrepreneurship, Austin Padgett doesn’t seem to do anything halfway.

Austin is a senior at Granite City High School. He carries a 5.79 GPA on a five-point scale. He earned that high of a GPA by taking multiple advanced courses and dual-credit classes from both St. Louis University and Southwestern Illinois College. Both higher-education instutites allow students to take college-level classes while still in high school to jump-start their college education.

For the first three years of his high school career, Austin was on the wrestling team. But after three concussions, his doctor wouldn’t release him to return and Austin opted not to try.

“I thought I’d rather not risk permanent brain damage,” he said.

Instead, Austin is devoting himself to tutoring, both peers at high school and at Coolidge Middle School.

He’s in at least three academic clubs as well as the National Honor Society, and part of the varsity club, which allows athletes who have earned a letter to do fundraisers for the school.

“He’s so smart; he’s sometimes a little hard to talk to,” laughed his mother, Kelly Brice.

One of Austin’s favorite classes is CEO, or “creating entrepreneurial opportunity.” Begun several years ago in Effingham, the class brings in business owners and entrepreneurs for the students to learn about modern business and marketing practices.

Then, in the spring semester, they launch their own business. That’s not a paper exercise: each student will launch a real, legal company with a business plan and attempt to market it.

“A lot of people do lawn care, or a tutoring business,” Austin said. He hasn’t decided what kind of business he plans to do, but he’s hoping that he can earn some money through it to help pay for college.

He hasn’t decided where he’s going yet, but Austin is pretty sure he’s going to pursue a physics major.

“If you get a degree in physics, there are so many jobs available at that point,” he said, listing engineering, chemistry, astrophysics and other possibilities.

But in the meantime, there’s more tutoring to be done. “You have to get involved and try to help your community as best you can,” Austin said. “The community made you who you are, you have to give back.”

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

Austin Padgett

  • Age: 17
  • School: Granite City High School
  • Grade: Senior
  • Town: Granite City
  • Parents: Kelly Brice, Danny Brice
  • Siblings: Daniel Brice, 16; Destiny Brice, 13
  • Clubs and activities: Coolidge Middle School tutoring, peer tutoring, science club, social studies club, varsity club and National Honor Society
  • Favorite classes: Chemistry and CEO (creating entrepreneurial opportunity)
  • Sports: three years on the wrestling team; quit due to injury
  • Honors: 5.79 GPA on five-point scale; dual credit classes from SLU and SWIC in American history, global issues, chemistry, calculus, English and CEO, among others
  • Volunteer work: tutoring, National Honor Society, varsity club fundraisers
  • Pasttimes: playing “FIFA Soccer,” hanging out with his girlfriend