Herald honors Katie Rostek as Emerging Citizen

Thursday, April 26, 2018 | 11:15 AM

Katie Rostek likes to stay busy. She always is looking for ways to help people. She takes charge. And, she gets things done.

Rostek, a senior at Quaker Valley High School, often starts her day before the start of school, helping with an activity or club. Then, after school she stays for hours, whether it’s for rehearsals for the school’s musical, practicing with the choral ensemble, leading the marching band as its drum major or one of the many other activities where she’s involved.

She seeks out ways to get involved and make a difference, whether through volunteering as a young Harmonist at Old Economy Village in Ambridge or choreographing the musicals for the middle school.

Her schedule stays full. So much so that just a few weeks into school she already needed a new planner, because her old one had already seen so much use.

“I try to push myself to do the best that I can in every facet of life, so taking challenging classes or volunteering for my community or doing the best for the band, if I enjoy something, I think that I should do it the whole way,” Rostek said.

For her passion that drives awareness and togetherness, Rostek has been named the Sewickley Herald’s Emerging Citizen for the newspaper’s 42nd annual Sewickley Herald Man, Woman & Citizens of the Year event, celebrating people and organizations whose commitment exemplifies community spirit. The event is set for May 11 at the Edgeworth Club.

Rostek is “an amazing leader” at Quaker Valley High School, said Principal Deborah Riccobelli. Yet she does everything with compassion and kindness.

“She’s really a friend to everyone,” Riccobelli said. “She just makes people feel happy. She’s very positive. She just exudes positivity.”

After she almost didn’t join the high school marching band — until the teacher and a friend both asked if she was signing up — Rostek was named drum major this year. She led the 70-member marching band, conducting, picking tunes for them to play in the stands and relaying information. She led the band through a football season that continued to a victorious state championship game at Hersheypark Stadium in December.

“I wanted to do it to give back to the band to try and make the marching band at Quaker Valley the best experience that it can be,” she said.

Rostek’s love for music goes beyond the band. She loves to sing — something she’s been doing ever since she was 4 years old in the choir at St. James Catholic Church.

She’s performed in roughly 25 musicals, including all four during her high school tenure.

She also has performed with the Junior Mendelssohn Choir for two years. This year, she won The Barbara Cass Award, which is selected by her peers in the choir, and given to the person who exemplifies the most knowledge, zeal, and commitment to the singing ensemble.

At Quaker Valley, she also is part of the concert choir, as well as the vocal ensemble.

Her day is packed, including two Advanced Placement classes and serving as a teacher’s assistant for two periods.

“It doesn’t stop,” she said, laughing, as she attempted to list everything she’s involved with.

Yet, she’s always looking for more opportunities to help.

Several years ago, she approached Riccobelli seeking a way to serve in a leadership role at the school. Out of that, Rostek became a student representative to the Home and School Association.

“That all came from her stepping up,” Riccobelli said. “Throughout high school, she just looks for and embraces every opportunity to make a difference.”

Rostek’s two main passions are music and politics.

Rostek also helped to organize a March 14 walkout to show solidarity for students following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

“Having students be able to show solidarity or use it as a platform to be able to talk about something else, or now call your representative and say that you participated in this and have a conversation, as a student it’s important to have that outlet and use your voice,” she said.

But she wasn’t done there.

Rostek and classmate Iman Benharrats, 17, a senior, started to talk about, “Can we do a next step? Can we build off of that energy? What we came to was, why don’t we have a voter registration drive. It can be bipartisan so it’s not divisive.”

The voter registration drive was about giving students who will be voting age for the next election everything they need to register.

“Hopefully we will help, at least a little bit, with increasing the turnout this year, in all parties,” she said.

Other students notice Rostek’s commitment.

“She just makes everything happen,” said Chloe Knoll, 17, a senior.

“She knows what she wants and goes for it,” Benharrats said.

Rostek plans to attend Pennsylvania State University next year, with a double major in political science and secondary education. Both of her parents, Nancy and Tom — who she credits everything to — are Penn State alumni.

She hopes to someday either become a teacher, or maybe she’ll go into politics. Or, maybe the political science major will lead her to law school, just like her mom.

Riccobelli said, personally, as an educator, she’d like to see Rostek become a teacher. She knows she’d soar.

“Give me a Katie any day,” she said. “But she will be amazing no matter she does. I’m just so proud of her.”

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.