Q & A with Saint Joseph’s College valedictorian Erick Schadler

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STANDISH — Erick Schadler of Raymond didn’t have to go far for his college education, but his time at Saint Joseph’s College took him around the world.

Schadler, a product of Windham-Raymond schools who was born and raised in Raymond and still lives there, will graduate this year as his class valedictorian. He said one of things that drew him to Saint Joseph’s was the opportunity to volunteer, and participated in service trips that took him to Kentucky and Guatemala.

A biology major with minors in chemistry and psychology, he plans to attend the University of Southern Maine to pursue a master’s degree in occupational therapy.

Schadler, 22, spoke with the Lakes Region Weekly about his accomplishments and his future.

Q: Do you still feel rooted in this community? 

A: With jobs and with work, I like to keep it in the area. I’m headed to grad school in the fall and I’m staying in the area when I go to the University of Southern Maine – and that’s kind of where I want to end up in the future too.

Q: Why did you choose Saint Joseph’s?

A: I applied to about 11 schools, kind of all over the place, because I really didn’t know what I wanted at the time. I ended up closer than what my high school was to my house. That was mostly due to the community feel of Saint Joe’s. Whether it’s the tight (knit) feel within the department of your major, or the actual Saint Joseph’s community feel, where everyone kind of works together and the professors are more than helpful.

Also, they had an amazing approach to service – and that was one of my biggest things that I was looking for in a college. I wanted to make sure that I could give back to the community or even internationally. And they had many different service opportunities for their students to take part in.

Q: How have you been able to maintain such a high level of academic success? 

A: Just time management and trying to have fun with it. Those are really my two pieces of advice.

Q: How did your education in Windham-Raymond schools prepare you for your time at Saint Joe’s? 

A: As a science major, I felt unbelievably prepared going into my freshman year. I got a really good foundation in science and math – and really all the other subjects too – but those two specifics for my major. I took a lot of the AP classes in high school, and they really prepared me for the introductory level classes that would have been much more overwhelming if I didn’t have the teachers that I did in high school and middle school.

Q: What sparked your interest in science and medicine? 

A: Initially my teachers in high school – I really had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. So I just took different classes in high school, and I kind of fell in love with biology. From there, I decided that would be my major. When I got to college, I got a job as a certified nursing assistant and immersed myself into the health care field – and absolutely fell in love with it and went from there and found out that occupational therapy was the niche within health care that I wanted to be in.

Q: Can you explain some of the work you’ve done in the lab, particularly regarding tick-borne illnesses? What were your results, and will the school be able to use that research in some way?

A: I applied for a Maine Space NASA grant, which they give to undergrads to explore really any area within science. You just have to come up with a proposal of an actual scientific project that is beneficial to both NASA and the community. So I decided to investigate the infection rate of Lyme disease and anaplasmosis on the power lines of Raymond. I did that through genetic testing, and I pretty much spent the entire summer (of 2017) working on that.

We collected a numerous amount of deer ticks and took them back to the St. Joe’s lab and did genetic testing. We found that 79.2 percent were carrying the bacteria for Lyme disease, we found that 30.2 percent of the ticks were carrying the bacteria for anaplasmosis, and 24.5 percent were carrying both as co-infections.

That gets published in the Saint Joeseph’s science journal, and also I had to submit it to the NASA grant people. From there, I set up more experiments to happen, where now they can do longitudinal studies where they can go out next year and do the same study and compare.

Q: You had an internship with therapeutic horse riding center Riding to the Top – what was that like? 

A: At that point, I was still trying to figure out exactly what part of medicine I wanted to be in. So I took different internships, different job shadows, and that internship at Riding to the Top really opened my eyes and let me experience occupational therapy and how beneficial it can be to a wide range of people.

What are your future plans? 

I’ll be going to graduate school in the fall for occupational therapy. That’s the master’s program at USM. So my plan is to work in the medical field as an occupational therapist.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 123 or mjunker@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Erick Schadler of Raymond is giving this year’s valedictorian message at Saint Joseph’s College.

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