- Published: Monday, March 06, 2017 11:02 AM
SPRINGFIELD – At 17, Ryan Poggenpohl understands the importance of giving back to his community and leads by example.
The Lincolnwood High School junior lives in Raymond, a Montgomery County town of about 990 residents. He’s the class secretary, on the cross country and basketball teams, a member of the FFA and a National Honor Society inductee.
Among his proudest affiliations is with the Lincolnwood Community Service Organization, a service-centered student group that organizes volunteer opportunities in this close-knit community.
“We organize local events. We help give food to the local food pantry. We help with blood drives. We just do anything we can to help make community life better,” said Poggenpohl, for whom leadership and service to others are guiding principles.
He also is treasurer and an active member of a junior firefighters group, assisting rural volunteer firefighters from behind the frontlines and learning about the importance of fire service.
“We just do it to help get us exposed to what fire department life is like and how we can better our leadership skills with on-the-job training, although we’re not involved at all with the actual calls,” he said, noting that his father is a volunteer firefighter. “We’re just there to observe and help the firefighters in whatever way we can.”
Poggenpohl joined Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) on March 1 at the Illinois Capitol for Manar’s Senator for the Day program. High school students in the 48th Senate District can accompany Manar for a day of legislative hearings, floor action and other activities, giving them a unique opportunity to see Illinois government in action, meet state leaders and learn more about what happens under the dome.
“Our goal this year is to have students from every high school in the district visit Springfield and spend a day with me. That’s important to me,” Manar said. “About 25 years ago, State Senator Vince Demuzio invited me to spend a day with him in the state Capitol, and that set me on a track that, I would argue, helped get me here today.”
When Poggenpohl graduates high school he plans to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He hopes to study engineering or history and to make a career of the military. After that, he said, he may get involved in politics.
“I’ve just always had a desire to serve my country,” he said. “I believe the Navy would make me the man I want to be and give me the experiences I need to help me to excel in life.”
Poggenpohl is the son of Allen and Rebecca Poggenpohl. His sister, Hanna, is a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana.