By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published May 26, 2011
This fall when many St. Pius X High School graduates will be deciding which classes will fill their schedule in the first semester of college, senior Noelle Richards will be beginning a different kind of education.
She will be active in the U.S. Air Force, studying mechanics, since she feels it would be a great way to see the world and get a unique education.
“I’m planning on going into the Air Force because I want to travel, and also it is a great opportunity to learn new skills,” she said.
Following her military service, she hopes to go back to school to study to become a doctor or a mortician. During the past three summers, Noelle has spent a significant amount of time volunteering at Grady Hospital and has come to have a special respect for these two fields.
“I’ve worked in the neonatal unit, the diabetes clinic, and I worked in the adult mental (health) daycare. Those have been really good experiences for me. … I just love to go there,” she said. “I don’t ever find a day where I don’t want to go to the hospital. … I’ve learned many things from there.”
The daughter of Ellen Semple, Noelle’s hard work outside the classroom reflects her performance as a student as well. While Noelle describes herself as a bit of a procrastinator when it comes to school work, the faculty and staff at St. Pius describe her as a hard worker with a positive attitude and a smile that brightens the room.
“I taught Noelle algebra one and worked with her in study support,” said St. Pius math teacher Dena Peck. “She is the type of student you would want to have a room full of because she always has a smile on her face. … She often came in on her lunch period to ask more questions, use the computer, complete homework, or study. To say she is a hard worker or has a great work ethic is an understatement. She knows that she has to put in extra work and does it with a smile.”
Throughout her years at the Atlanta high school, she also spent time in extracurricular activities, including volleyball, Latin club, art club and as a trainer for the basketball team. She has made many friends and created even more memories during her time at the school, and among those favorite memories are the prom and homecoming dances. There is one aspect of school she will be happy to leave behind though.
“The only thing I just won’t miss about it is … waking up at five o’clock in the morning to catch the bus to come to school,” she said with a chuckle.
She also has some wise words to pass along to upcoming freshman. One tip encouraged students to create a balance between social life and schoolwork.
“Make sure … you stay on top of your game at all times,” she said about schoolwork. “Freshman year is just the beginning. … You want to make sure you have a social life and a work life at the same time.”
A member of St. Anthony of Padua Church, Atlanta, Noelle attended St. Peter Claver Regional School in Decatur before arriving at St. Pius. She was greeted by a welcoming, diverse community at the school just off I-85 at Shallowford Road, something that has become her favorite part of the high school experience.
“The environment was probably my favorite thing,” she said. “You get to meet all these different people; you get to learn different things about different cultures and backgrounds.”
While Ruth McCullough, dean of academics at St. Pius, said Noelle has been a behind-the-scenes student, she has certainly made an impact on the school.
“Noelle is the person I want to have greet me when I make it to the Pearly Gates,” said McCullough. “Then I will know I am in the right place. You know your day will be brighter once she has smiled at you and greeted you when she arrives at school at 7 a.m. each morning. She is warm and caring and represents the St. Pius X family.”