Shepard senior’s motto: Afraid not
BY CHERYL DANGEL BARTOLINI Correspondent February 28, 2014 2:00PM
Shepard High School student Patty Clohessy had her head shaved as a sophomore to help raise money for the St. Baldrick's Foundation. | Supplied photo
Updated: April 4, 2014 6:06AM
Patty Clohessy is not afraid to try new things. And she knows something about fear.
Between public speaking, shaving her head and researching a disease that leaves some people unable to feel fear, she has some experience in the topic.
A senior at Shepard High School in Palos Heights, Clohessy has earned Honors with Distinction, the highest academic honor a high school student can receive in Community High School District 218, along with multiple awards in speech.
She doesn’t let fear get the best of her.
Clohessy, 18, became involved with speech as a freshman.
“It helped improve my confidence and I learned how to speak to an audience,” she said.
That also helped not only in everyday conversations, but in class projects and even college interviews.
“Now I can talk to them without feeling too nervous,” she said.
Nervous? This is a girl whom District 218 spokesman Bob McParland describes as “so gutsy, she shaved her head to raise money for pediatric cancer research for St. Baldrick’s Day as a sophomore.”
Timid, she is not.
“I understood that St. Baldrick’s helps a lot with raising money that cancer patients need. It is an emotional thing and cancer has always been something that gets to me,” Clohessy said. “So if I have to shave my head, I would, because it is so right.”
Clohessy conceded it was a little scary.
“I was a little apprehensive because I was afraid of what was going to happen but when it came down to the moment, I was excited about what I was going to look like and I had a lot of support from friends and family,” she said.
As a junior, she made posters to help the cause. This year, she will help collecting money as well.
In fact, Clohessy knows that fear can hold you back from experiences, and she doesn’t want anything to do with it.
In speech, Clohessy competed in informative speaking. Students pick a topic that is relatable to current times.
“You research the topic and write a speech about it,” Clohessy said. “You define what it is and how you can apply it to everyday life. Not only do I get to inform everyone about it, but I get to learn new things just being in there.”
This year, Clohessy competed with the topic of Urbach-Wiethe disease, a genetic disorder with dermatological and neurological symptoms, one of which is the inability to feel fear.
“People who can’t feel fear can go into certain situations and never feel upset or apprehensive. I talk about how this can help us in society,” she said. “People with this disease have a curiosity about things, so they learn a lot. If we didn’t have fear, we would all experience more. Nothing would hold us back.”
Shepard finished eighth in the state in speech.
In addition to speech, Clohessy is a member of drama club, mathletes, student council and the National Honor Society. If that weren’t enough, she recently learned she was selected as one of 175 Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois Class of 2014, an honor awarded to high school seniors who want to pursue a career in education.
Golden Apple Scholars receive tuition assistance, and the foundation enhances each student’s education through internships and seminars on the art and craft of teaching, according to McParland. Scholars also receive a $2,000 stipend for each Summer Institute they attend, plus mentoring support from award-winning teachers in the Golden Apple Scholars network, according to McParland.
Clohessy said her mentors right now are her parents, Miryam and Pat Clohessy, of Alsip.
“They push me to do well in school and they are always there to give me support with everything,” she said.
Next school year, she’d like to attend DePaul University, St. Xavier University or Roosevelt University and pursue a degree in education.
“I recently have been working with students with autism and working with them made me realize I like working with students and people who need and want my help,” she said.
“I just love learning new things and just the idea of being able to go to school and start to find new things really interests me,” she said. “I keep alluding back to my parents but they’ve always had high hopes for me. That makes me want to repay what they have done for me by getting a good education and doing something with my life.”