When you first see him walk down the hallway, you see his bright smile illuminated by brown hair that slightly falls on his forehead.
You would never know that it was all gone — just about a year ago.
He blends in well with his friends, but stands out in persona even while freshmen are typically ignored and pushed to the side, like gnats buzzing around your head. He wears his hair to the side, slightly combed back. His eyes stand out, as they are not quite brown, rather a brown with a dusting of green flecks, brightening his entire face. He stands tall, even though he is smaller in size, walking through the halls always smiling.
Out of all the bright and shiny new kids that came to East this year, Tucker Rapp is one of the brightest. With a history and goal to give to others, this will just be the beginning to his high school career.
Tucker went to Plank Junior High where he was recognized for his attitude and passion, he even won the Certificate of Favorable Mention from the American Legion. He maintained high grades, was a favorite among teachers, like Josh Edwards a Physical Education teacher, and frequented social events like dances and games. Edwards still admires Tucker for these qualities, as he “is always thinking of ways to help others, and is a pleasure in and out of the classroom.”
But it was also during this time, when Tucker was in eighth grade, that an alumnus from Plank Junior High and senior at Oswego East had begun an uphill battle against Bone Cancer. Hailey Carlson was described as kind and caring, and an example as to what Edwards said his students should strive to be, a leader in and out of school. When she got sick, Edwards knew he wanted to do something to help her, which for him meant energizing his students in raising money to find a cure and to support other families that were going through the same thing.
The St. Baldricks Foundation is a Charity organization, dedicated to filling the funding gap for kids with cancer by paying for research, support groups, health education, family stays at hospitals and patient programs. All of which are wildly unfunded by the government, and by pharmaceutical companies who mainly invest in cures for adults, rather than children and adolescents.
But this didn’t stop Tucker, as he saw a problem and wanted tochange it.
When Tucker first began work on this project, he said it was his family that helped inspire him to continue with it at all. “I remember when I first told my parents they were like ‘Yeah, you should do it, that’s sick!’ which really inspired me to do it, and they helped me a lot.” Tucker continues, his smile getting a little wider. “They would keep checking how much money I was raising and keep posting on social media to keep people involved.”
This support system has kept him going all his life, his parents instilled in him good values especially one that would make him want to help people and appreciate what he has. As a boy in a good school district, and in a nice neighborhood, playing two club sports, he knows what good is. Not only this, but his mom Janel Rapp teaches him and his siblings, in fifth and seventh grade, to be empathetic and understanding that everyone has different paths of life.
So, when Tucker told his family that he was interested, they immediately launched a plan that would help him raise hundreds for the cause. As one post after another, his friends and family showed their support in arms, reposting to their pages on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.
But getting the money wasn’t the only part he had to commit to shaving his head in front of the school.
“I think it was important to shave my head in front of the entire school because I believe it inspired others to contribute and help make the world a better place, I also think that beating a teacher showed that anyone at any age can contribute, not just adults,” Rapp explains. For the foundation, shaving your head is a way to show respect to the people who don’t have the ability to keep their hair long, due to the cancer.
Then news came, Hailey lost her battle to Bone Cancer the night before they were to shave their heads in her honor. A death from a beloved student at both of his schools, current and past, was bound to affect them in some way, even if he never knew her personally.
The morning of the assembly, Tucker dyed his hair green, the colors of the foundation he was representing. He also wore his blue, 2019 Rock the Bald t-shirt, a shiny button with the same saying and two neon green stripes, painted across his cheeks. While his nerves were high, and being filmed by multiple, there was no smile brighter than his even as he watched the shiny brown locks, fall to the floor in clumps.
Edwards explained these moments at the assembly stating, “While there was a heavy feeling in the air, it was also electric, students, staff, parents and volunteers all pulled together to create an amazing atmosphere of support, caring and hope. Once the event ended there was a real sense of hope and accomplishment, also a release that was in itself a cathartic moment.”
With a grand total of $603, he raised triple the amount of the teacher that challenged him, all while learning valuable lessons in the meantime. His family is proud of the courage he had to go up there and to stand up for what he believes in. His friends inspired, like Zach Mottet a fellow freshman who has been his best friend since first grade. And his teachers were just as thrilled, especially Edwards who was emotional the day of, due to the immense emotion and support in honor of his former student Hailey. Edwards also said that he is the representation of what the student body should be, by understanding the world around them and helping others in need.
But nearly a full year later, he was initially unsure how he wanted to continue this passion he found last year. Being a new student in a new school, nearly double the size of his previous, can be hard to adjust to too. His mom thinks he has a long way to go, explaining, “Tucker has a lot left to learn through high school. He’ll change and grow as new challenges with school and with friends.”
Still, hardship and stress won’t stop him. High school is one more place he can make a difference.
“I plan to continue donating and trying to make good change for the world, but I might change to another organization because there are millions of people in need for many different things,” Tucker says.
Tucker will continue his high school education as a wolf as a volleyball and baseball player, striving to get better with every passing day.
Ashlyn Pearson is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl