By Caton Deuso
Olivia Whiting is the first Railroader at Whitehall High to be named Student of the Month this school year. The quadruple-sport, advanced-class-taking and theater-loving senior was honored with the award by principal Ethan Burgess and Whitehall Elks Lodge 149 trustee Michael Putorti before the winter recess.
“She’s got a full load academically,” Burgess said. “On top of it, she plays every varsity sport she can play. On top of that, she does everything in the theater department that they can offer. So, she does everything that we offer here to a T. “
“Her grades are great, she starts on the varsity teams, and she is without a doubt one of the most talented musicians we have in the school,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
Burgess said that Whiting is the voice of the Railroader Nation. He spoke highly of her vocal talent and said that she “just gets it.”
“She’s got music ability that you wouldn’t believe! Every time we have a drama or theater production here, she steals the show… she doesn’t get recognized for it because as an athlete, we tend to focus on that, but her vocal range and ability is unprecedented to this area,” he said.
Whiting was given the award not only for maintaining excellent grades in her advanced-level courses, but she also juggles theater, soccer, cheerleading, and basketball – all between the months of September to December.
“She does it all with such success. She knows how to manage her time, compartmentalize, when to be tenacious, she understands all of that,” Burgess said. “We don’t have a lot of students that do that to such a success that she does.
“She’s driven, she wants to go to college… she’s one of the student leaders in the school,” he said. “She’s your average, all-American student, she does everything that is offered.”
How does she do it all? Whiting explained it through a Q and A:
Q: How was your fall term this past semester?
A: It was really good! It was good to be back. There weren’t as many COVID restrictions as the past few years so it was nice to be back. It was also great to see my teachers again!
Q: What classes were you taking last semester?
A: I took a lot of harder classes last year. I took chemistry and algebra II which were probably the hardest classes that I’ve taken in high school, so they were definitely not the favorites of my classes. My favorite classes are my music classes. I am very involved in the music program at my school so my favorites are probably chorus and band which are also hard online. It’s hard to pick a favorite when my favorite classes weren’t normal
Q: How did your music classes work? What were they like online?
A: It was a challenge; definitely! A lot of my choir classes were skill-based. It was less about the performance and more about the details of music and more in depth of how music works.
Q: Of your core classes, what is your favorite?
A: My favorites are probably history and English; they are the two that I like more than others. I’m not really a math kid, it’s never really been my thing… I never want to answer the questions in math class.
Q: What was it like moving online at the beginning of the pandemic? What did you go through when online learning began?
A: Learning online was a challenge. It’s hard not being in the classroom setting. I know myself and I am a hands-on learner. I need to be in the classroom and have discussion which is really hard to do online. Especially in the beginning because school became do some work and learn everything on your own. It was a new experience for everyone and we were all just trying to learn.
Q: Seeing as more than half of your time spent in high school was also spent in a pandemic, what was that like for you and what life lessons has the pandemic taught you?
A: The pandemic for me and being in high school, it’s kind of sad. I’ve missed a lot of milestones that a lot of people I know talk about and how they got to experience it but I didn’t because most of my high school experience was interrupted by the pandemic. I’ve learned to appreciate everything that I get to do in high school. Especially this year as a senior I’m appreciating every little thing I get to do.
Q: What is something that you are looking forward to after high school?
A: I’m looking forward to attending college! I’m really excited to get to meet new people and experience a new environment. I’m just excited to get out there and with living in a small town of Whitehall, you’re very limited. So, I’m excited to go and experience new things.
Q: What are your hobbies? What sports do you play?
A: Yes, I am a three-sport athlete! I play soccer, basketball, softball, and I cheer.
Q: Was the award a surprise to you? What was the moment like when you found out?
A: It was, yes! I did not expect to get it especially so early on in the year. Mr. Burgess scared me a little bit! I was walking down the hallway and he called for me and pulled me into his office and I was like, ‘oh no, I don’t do anything wrong! Why am I being called to the principal’s office right now?’ But then he told me the news and I was like ‘oh thank God, I was scared it was something bad.’
Q: What does the award mean to you?
A: The award to me gives me a feeling of being acknowledged. I do a lot of things and I am very involved, so it’s nice to be noticed. There are a lot of kids at my school that are involved in a lot of things and we live in a small town, so I think everyone is pretty much involved with everything. But it’s feels good to be noticed.