In all my harvesting of advice from alumni and upperclassmen, many times it has to do with getting involved in as many extracurriculars as possible. Owen Smolek (‘20) has certainly capitalized upon that to the fullest extent. Owen, the epitome of a triple threat, has invested himself in musical, athletic, and academic programs during his time at Forest Hills Eastern.
On the field, Owen is known as the varsity goalkeeper and has worked on improving his soccer skills with various club and school teams since third grade. Voted “Team Dad” during his 2018-19 season, he successfully translated his competitiveness, leadership, and caring spirit to the other programs he’s involved in.
Additionally, he also shoulders another title of leadership while on the field: Drum Major. This marching season, Owen conducted the FHE marching band alongside Anna Zwart (‘20), serving as a visual leader to keep marchers in step, and mental leader to keep the band in positive spirits. While Owen admitted trying out for drum major was slightly outside of his comfort zone, he ended up “[having] an amazing time” this marching season, and was given the title of “Band Dad”; therefore proving that his influence on the podium was just as monumental as his influence in the goal.
Although he doesn’t mind standing in front of crowds during the marching season, his passion for stage crew was contrarily rooted in his stage fright. “At Goodwille, for the Christmas Carol in fifth grade, I wanted to do stage crew because I didn’t want to be on stage because I have awful stage fright… That’s what got me into theater.” Owen says that when he was notified that there would be a middle school play in eighth grade, he recalled how much he enjoyed his experience at Goodwillie, and he knew he had to sign up. Since then, Owen has participated in sixteen shows and is known as “Crew Dad,” a title he recently willed to his eponymous counterpart, Owen Danko (‘22). Moreover, beginning his sophomore year, he was even employed by the school to work the sound and light board for all after school events in the auditorium. “Theater has [given me] many new leadership opportunities with so many types of people and personalities,” he says of his time in the theater department. Besides leadership skills, Owen has looked up to preceding seniors since his freshman year, focusing on “how to emulate them”.
While Owen hasn’t decided which university he wants to attend, he is definite about pursuing an engineering profession–partially thanks to his involvement with Science Olympiad. He signed up in 7th grade thinking it would be a good outlet to combine his love of math and science, and has been a dedicated team member ever since, even taking on yet another leadership role in coordinating the building events with the underclassmen. As he became more involved with the program, Owen recalled thinking “I like doing this stuff… I wonder if I could do this as a career?”
When thinking of advice to give to incoming high schoolers, he definitely agrees that new Hawklings should follow his suit. “Get involved to meet new people and try new things… if you do stuff like band, sports, theater, and clubs, you get to make friends with people in other grades you would have never met otherwise.” Owen also prescribes a lesser-thought-of but equally important piece of advice: “Get lots of sleep!”
Owen’s presence (and height) will certainly be missed next year, but what’s more, is the excitement that amounts as his friends and family wait to see how he incorporates the problem-solving, leadership, and competitive skills he has acquired throughout the course of high school into his college years and beyond.
Feature image credit to Debby Ford