HUDSON — Abigail Richardson likes to help people.

Whether that's through her capstone Girl Scouts project helping refugees coming to the Akron area, a service trip to a North Dakota Native American reservation or plans to become a doctor, the 18-year-old Western Reserve Academy senior dedicates her time to helping others.

“I want to help as many people as I can,” said Richardson, who graduates Sunday, and was selected as one of the Beacon Journal’s top-three Star Students for 2019.

Richardson is a West Akron native who began playing violin at age 3; she still plays in the school orchestra 15 years later. She attended Our Lady of the Elms and Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts before she started at Western Reserve in Hudson.

She’s been busy in her four years at the private school of about 400 students.

Her list of accomplishments includes co-head of the school’s Classics Club; secretary-in-chief of the school’s Model United Nations club; a day student prefect, a leadership position that helps other day students like herself (the school also has boarding students) feel welcome on campus; and a chief ambassador, giving tours to prospective students and donors.

Richardson doesn’t see herself as an athlete and didn’t know about the school’s requirement to participate in athletics until she got there as a freshman. But four years later, she’s a triple-varsity athlete: The swim team captain also plays on the lacrosse and field hockey teams.

Richardson keeps herself organized to make sure she gets everything done, including an average of 2½ hours of homework a night.

"I'm involved in so much,” she said as she laughed while listing her accomplishments.

Outside of school, she’s been in Girl Scouts for 13 years and recently earned her Gold Award, similar in status to becoming an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts.

For her project, the avid reader and book lover collected 5,000 books over two years — storing them in her family’s garage — and donated them this past fall to the International Institute of Akron, which helps resettle refugees, for the lobby of its new building. Clients can take the books with them or read them in the lobby to learn English.

"I really wanted to partner with an organization that I knew would be able to impact a large audience of people,” said Richardson, who also built a puppet theater for the lobby. “I wanted to impact as many people as I could in a positive way."

Richardson also traveled as a high school student. She went to Italy for a month the summer after her sophomore year to study Latin — her favorite class this year — and to Pine Ridge, South Dakota, in 2018 for a weeklong service trip to the Oglala Lakota Native American reservation.

"It just really impacted me because I didn't know that in America there could be such a level of poverty,” said Richardson, who helped build decks, outhouses and bunk beds.

This fall, Richardson will head to Pennsylvania's Villanova University — which she says has a similar “vibe” to Western Reserve — and major in biology. She’ll also minor in classics, a nod to her love of the Latin and Greek languages. She’ll then head to medical school and ultimately plans to become a surgeon — she's known ever since she was little that she wants to be a doctor.

Her South Dakota trip influenced Richardson to consider working on reservations with limited access to emergency medicine in the future. Richardson’s also considering joining the Peace Corps.

When she has free time — it doesn’t seem like that’s often — she enjoys reading, hanging out with her friends and walking her dog, a 9-year-old Great Dane mastiff named Cooper.

Richardson said she’s thankful for her experience at Western Reserve.

“I'm so happy that I went here just because the opportunities I've been given to experience here I know I wouldn't be able to get anywhere else, and I'm so thankful for that,” she said. “It's really opened myself up as a person ... It's really just opened my horizons.”

 

Contact reporter Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, emills@thebeaconjournal.com and @EmilyMills818.