Kathleen Russo is a consummate juggler.
She may not practice the literal craft common to a circus or a sideshow, but the 17-year-old Smoky Hill senior has plenty of experience keeping several figurative balls in the air at once. There's her role in the school's DECA club, her involvement in student government, her regular load of Advanced Placement classes and all of the other challenging academic commitments.
"It never ends," Russo said with a wide smile. "I've always been juggling so I'm getting very good at it. I love being involved in school and I get very bored if I'm not doing something all of the time."
Happily, Smoky Hill High School has provided Russo plenty of ways to keep from getting bored. As she kicks off her senior year, Russo is already shuffling between schoolwork, student government and tutoring. She's become an active and distinctive voice for the Smoky Hill community, and that work has helped steer her interests toward an even greater degree of activism.
Her time as an officer in the Smoky Hill student government has opened her eyes to a bigger world of activism and engagement. It's an insight that's already figuring into Russo's plans for college.
"I definitely want to go into politics. Originally, I wanted to be a White House aide," she said, adding that her interest has broadened to some sort of lower-level post. "By participating in student government and clubs, I was able to be a larger part of this school. I know about administration, I know how this school works. That's what got me interested in politics."
Russo was already keeping up that pattern of engagement in the first days of the 2014-15 school year. She had been on campus weeks before the official kickoff of classes, coordinating activities for clubs and preparing for her role as a tutor.
That early involvement speaks to Russo's deep roots at the school. She's looking at small liberal arts colleges far from Aurora – her options include campuses in Michigan and California. Whatever her destination for 2015, Smoky Hill will leave an indelible mark on her future. The school's resources helped her connect to peers, teachers and administrators. On a larger level, it connected her to the district as a whole.
"The schools interact with each other," Russo said. "I hadn't realized what a centerpiece the schools were in a community and how they're related to so many other different things."
That's a valuable lesson for a future politician.
-- Posted Aug. 25, 2014