Christian Wallace | Supplied photo by Bob McParland
Updated: July 3, 2014 6:14AM
Christian Wallace is a self-described “green initiative person.”
Wallace, who graduated last month from Shepard High School in Palos Heights, is doing all he can to make the world a cleaner place to live. As evidence of this, Wallace was one of a handful of students who worked on a project to turn ordinary cooking oil into biodiesel fuel.
As a senior, Wallace was a co-captain of Shepard’s biodiesel team, a group of 15 to 20 high school students who turned cooking oil into biodiesel fuel as part of a pact with the Crestwood public works department.
“They run their vehicles on our biodiesel, which reduces emissions and brings down air pollution,” Wallace said.
The conversion process starts with used cooking oil, which is donated by Beggars Pizza.
“We extract it and filter it,” Wallace said. “Then the oil is cooked and filtered again. The overview is easy, but the step-by-step process is pretty complex.”
The work is done at the Crestwood public works facility. The group works on the conversion every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
“I enjoy the kids in the group a lot,” Wallace said. “It is a whole new experience where we are practically doing a college project. It is a blend of chemistry and physics and you get to work with your hands.
“We built the entire system. I got to learn about different aspects of piping, chemistry and physics, and we did some of the carpentry ourselves, too.”
Wallace, 18, earned Honors with Distinction, the highest academic honor a student can receive at Shepard. He first became interested in the project when he heard it had to do with construction.
“I’m really into physics,” he said. “I thought it would be cool to see how all the construction works. Then it got into the chemistry, which I enjoyed even more.”
The fact that it was also an environmental project was a bonus.
“I love that aspect of it,” he said.
The project is considered groundbreaking and also was profiled recently on a local morning news program.
This was Shepard’s first year doing the project, and Wallace was thrilled to be a part of it. But there’s a bittersweet aspect.
“Next year, they are building a new science wing here and they’ll have a whole new system for it,” he said.
Wallace won’t be there to enjoy it. He’ll be attending Marquette University, where he wants to work toward a career as a physician’s assistant and work in a hospital. He plans to major in biomedical science.
“When I was a sophomore, I had a bad leg injury. If I had injured it 70 years ago, I never would have been able to walk again,” he said. “I want to be part of modern medicine. It’s amazing how far we’ve come. I want to help people recover and get better.”
At Shepard, Wallace was a member of National Honor Society and French Honor Society and was one of the command staff members of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, which he joined as a freshman.
“I had no idea what it was all about. I thought it would be really interesting to be a part of it,” he said. “My dad used to be in ROTC at his school and I just really love it. We live by our morals and our code. We do a lot of community service. It is pretty great.”
The son of Gareth and Laura Wallace, of Palos Heights, said he is motivated by his belief in God.
“I want to live my life like God wanted me to,” he said. “I’m a pretty religious person. I want to do things for myself and the most important thing you can do is have a good reflection on other people and make their lives better while you help yourself.”