Student of the Week: Father McGivney senior spent summer in D.C.

Student of the Week Joe Richard learns how government works in D.C.

Father McGivney High School student Joe Richard is very active in school activities and community service projects.
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Father McGivney High School student Joe Richard is very active in school activities and community service projects.

With a buzzer in hand, Joe Richard was ready as scholastic bowl sponsor Jeremy Kovarik fired off questions during a recent practice session at Father McGivney Catholic High School in Glen Carbon.

Joe, dressed sharply in khaki pants, a white dress shirt with a bow-tie and a black blazer, answered several questions correctly, including a geography one about Sicily and a musical question about the “King and I.”

Scholastic bowl is one of several clubs Joe is involved with at school. He also stays active in his community.

“A lot of the things I do is involved with my church (St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Edwardsville). I play music at church on Sundays, and we have different events throughout the year,” Joe said. “I also volunteer with the Special Olympics. That’s something I’ve done that I really enjoy doing. You see pure joy when you see people experiencing such happiness like that and it really kind of boosts me up to know that I’m doing something that’s kind of selfless and helping a lot of people out and they are really appreciating what I’m doing.”

Principal Mike Scholz described Joe as a “very special young man. He is totally immersed in his faith, school and community. He is an extremely kind, considerate and focused young man,” Scholz said. “He is an inspiration to all of us at Father McGivney Catholic High School. ... He is happiest when he is helping others.”

He is an inspiration to all of us at Father McGivney Catholic High School....He is happiest when he is helping others.

Principal Mike Scholz said of student Joe Richard

Joe was one of the first 19 students to attend Father McGivney when it first started in a wing at St. John Neumann School in Maryville.

Student Services Director Bobbie Madura has known Joe since Joe began his high school career.

“Joe is not only the kind of student every teacher would want in the classroom, he is also a natural leader. Joe understands everything needed in order to be successful, not just at Father McGivney, but in life,” Madura said. “One thing about Joe that truly impresses me is his drive to achieve a high level of success. Joe has come to me on multiple occasions for direction with college choices and career. He has been involved in every aspect of Father McGivney from athletics and academics to peer mentoring and community service.”

Joe spent the summer doing an internship in Washington D.C., learning how government works and more about his Native American heritage. On his mom’s side, Joe said he’s Delaware and Cherokee.

500 hours of non-school related community service

Q. How did the summer internship come about?

A. “I was looking for some sort of career exploration opportunity, and a lot of colleges around the country have different opportunities. ... One of the things I’ve been interested in is government. My mom actually found this program in Washington D.C. called the INSPIRE Pre-College Program that is for Native American students who want to learn more about the relationship between sovereign tribal government and the federal government. I thought it seemed pretty interesting and something I wanted to do, so I applied. There’s nine of us that were in the program and 150 applicants or so. I was pretty lucky to end up there.”

Q. How long did you stay in D.C.?

A. “I was in D.C. at George Washington University, which is right in the heart of the city — about a block from the National Mall and three blocks away from the White House. I was there for three weeks.”

Q. What did you gain from that experience?

A. “This was an opportunity since I was interested in studying government and learning more about my culture. I could put the two together and kind of go from there.”

Q. What type of activities did you do in D.C.?

A. “We did a lot of things. It was pretty packed. One of the things we did was go to class. This was technically a college course we were taking. It was called Native Politics and the Political System. We went to class for a lecture pretty much every day — either in the morning, the afternoon or both. We went on a lot of site visits including the White House, Library of Congress, which was pretty cool because I actually have a Library of Congress library card, which is kind of fun to show off when I got back. We went to the National Museum of the American Indian repository so only 1 percent of what they store is actually on display. The rest they keep in this big storage place like you would see in the movies. That was really cool to be able to see that, where they keep everything else.”

Q. What did you enjoy most about the experience?

A. “One of the high points of the experience was called the White House Tribal Youth gathering. That was initiated by the president last year. They were expecting 700 to 800 and got over 1,200 Native youth from across the country to go to this full-day conference. There were a lot of different talks and discussions going on. First Lady Michelle Obama gave a speech. Secretary of State, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Education — they were all there. So a lot of bigwigs were there and that was kind of cool to be able to say I’ve been there and got to see all these very influential people talk.”

Q. Did you have any time off during your time in D.C.?

A. “I got to hang out with my friends and explore the city. It was awesome getting to be in D.C. for three weeks in the middle of the summer. We pretty much had our weekends to go out and explore. We went to the Georgetown district and different museums. We took it all in when we could.”

Q. Didn’t you also work for the campaign of a local politician?

A. “Last year (2014) during the election season, I saw this opportunity to be a campaign intern for one of our local state representatives (Dwight Kay), and I started in August and went through election day. I got permission from Mr. Scholz to take school off on election day so I could help campaign, which was quite the experience. I was working from 7 a.m., and we figured out our candidate won at 10:30 or 11 p.m. That was a very full day, and very exhausting but still a really cool experience to be able to say I did something and was part of campaign that won as a high schooler even. I did your typical things of calling people and going door to door, but I felt like I was able to make a big impact. Even before I was able to vote, I was able to help in an election, which was a unique experience.”

Q. Why is community service important to you?

A. “Here at McGivney, and part of the reason I wanted to come here was, our school motto is ‘serving the culture of life.’ ... We believe that if we go out into the community and if we serve those that are in need, whether that’s a kindergarten class of students learning about Jesus or teenagers in Special Olympics or elderly in nursing homes ... we are kind of creating a better place in our communities, which we hope will spread as this school continues to grow.”

Q. What do you want to do after high school?

“I’m applying to 10 schools, but that’s so I can have a lot of options and see who wants to give me a good financial aid offer and who will fit with me the best. My top couple would be the University of Illinois in Champaign and University of Notre Dame. I’m considering business, but also possibly something technical like maybe physics or maybe engineering.”

Q. Do you have any hobbies?

A. “My biggest hobby outside of school is photography. My grandfather was a photojournalist for Illinois State Bar Association. ... He went to Mizzou after World War II and went to journalism school there. That’s how I became interested in photography. ... I really love going out and doing landscape photography. ... I also like to play sports with my friends. I like to study photography in my spare time and research how the stock market is doing.”

Q. Do you have any advice for high school students?

A. “Just give it your best shot and put your name out there. Put your best foot forward and you will go on and do pretty well.”

Jamie Forsythe: 618-239-2562, @BND_JForsythe

Meet Joe Richard

  • Age: 18
  • School: Senior at Father McGivney Catholic High in Glen Carbon
  • Family: Parents Steve and Ann, two older sisters, Teresa and Angela
  • City of residence: Glen Carbon
  • Music interests: “Anything but country,” he says, though he likes the country group Rascal Flatts
  • Favorite class: “It would be a toss-up between physics or consumer ed,” he says.
  • ACT score: 31. “I started at 25, hit 27, then went up to 29,” he said before he got 31.
  • School clubs: Scholastic bowl team, math team, National Honors Society, band; yearbook and varsity soccer team
  • Community involvement: Sunday school teacher at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Edwardsville
  • Summer job: counselor at St. John Neumann’s summer camp. “I enjoy working with kids.”