Joey Haley and Katie Warden, Pacific High School sophomores selected to attend the annual Sophomore Pilgrimage to the state capital, said they did not realize that the one-day visit with state officials would cement their career choices and set expectations for a bright future.
The General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) of Missouri sponsors the program. This year was the 78th Annual Sophomore Pilgrimage to Jefferson City. It was the 10th year that Pacific High students have attended.
Traditionally high schools can only send one sophomore on the pilgrimage. But this year the GFWC agreed that Pacific High could send two students after sophomore Odyssey classmates identified Haley and Warden as the students most likely to do something special with their lives and Nancy Thater, PHS Odyssey director, said she could not choose between the two.
Neither of the second-year students was aware of the Sophomore Pilgrimage before learning they were to go.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” Warden said. “I first learned that we were chosen when Mrs. Thater called Joey (Haley) and me into her office and told us.”
Haley wants to work in computer technology but is interested in public affairs and public speaking. He would one day like to run for the U.S. Senate and eventually for president.
Warden wants to be an attorney and do something that makes a difference in the lives of others. She now believes the ideal career would be that of clerk for a state or U.S. Supreme Court judge.
Both admit that their work in Odyssey, where they have been classmates since third grade, and their first two years in high school, have opened up the possibility of thinking big when it comes to college and career.
The Sophomore Pilgrimage simply brought it all to fruition.
Haley first tried public speaking in seventh grade, when Mr. Walz, the Odyssey teacher, said, “This is something you can do.”
In high school, speech club director Ed Kappeler urged him to join the speech team and try out for extemporaneous speaking.
“I realized that public speaking and public affairs were where I wanted to work after Mr. Kappeler talked me into entering the extemporaneous speaking competition,” Haley said. “He said he believed in me.”
It was seeing the tour guides in the state Capitol and state Supreme Court building that Haley realized how valuable speaking skills can be in careers.
“They were so full of enthusiasm and they told you a lot about the building and the history of the state,” Haley said. “They not only knew a lot they made you want to know more about it.”
Warden said she also got caught up in the enthusiasm of the tour guides, especially on the state Supreme Court building tour.
“She was a clerk for one of the judges,” Warden said. “She told the story of one of the judges being blind and having to make all his decisions on cases from verbal presentations instead of written briefs.”
What that story did for her, Warden said, was make her reflect on how we judge people.
“It was just amazing,” Warden said. “So much of how we judge people is what we observe. Sometimes we decide that a person is a bad guy because of the way he looks. This judge has to make all his decisions based on what he hears now by outward appearances.”
Visiting with other sophomores as they assembled at West County Mall and hour and half bus ride each way allowed time for Pacific High students to learn how early their peers in other districts are thinking about college and career choices.
“We talked on the bus and made the tours together,” Haley said. “I made two friends who I still talk to almost every day.”
Thater said she was not surprised that the two gifted students felt that they had gained by the experience.
“It’s incredible for the students to meet and spend a full day with sophomores from around the state of Missouri,” Thater said. “Many students visited Jefferson City in fourth grade and this trip builds on their knowledge of the state history.”
Seeing the Thomas Hart Benton mural again is exciting for the students as they now have a better understanding of historic and cultural events in the state, Thater noted.
“Going into the Missouri Supreme Court is an excellent place for the students to learn about Missouri’s judicial system,” she said.
Past PHS students selected for Sophomore Pilgrimage were Sarah Fulkerson, 2003; Katie Boefer, 2004; Jessica Lindemann, 2005; Amy Payne, 2006; Ashley Bullock, 2007; Amanda VanWinkle, 2008; Sarah Doell, 2009; Rachel Hendrix, 2010; and Cara Dubuke 2011.