When Olivia VanMeter is swimming for South Bend Riley High School, it is her faith that pushes her to the finish line.
“Your body is giving out and you have your heart and you have your mind,” VanMeter explains. “When you are in that last leg, you are tired and it’s all you got. You just have to race to that wall and keep praying through it.”
VanMeter isn’t just a swimmer at Riley High School. The Wildcat senior is also drum major in the school band, President of the Student Council, Secretary of the National Honor Society, Sports Editor of the school newspaper and she is ranked #1 in her senior class. As a parishioner at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend, VanMeter is an altar server and Eurcharistic Minister.
That’s why she is the perfect choice for our Redeemer Radio 95.7M Student of the Month for December, brought to you by St. Joseph Health System. The Redeemer Radio Student of the Month recognizes students who excel in the classroom, show a strong Catholic faith and are involved in extracurricular activities at school or Church. Boy does Olivia check those boxes!
Olivia was nominated by fellow St. Matt’s parishioner and Redeemer Radio broadcaster Bob Berger. At St. Matt’s, Olivia says she really enjoys being a part of the Mass as an altar server and Eucharistic Minister.
“It’s so different being able to help the priest and knowing I’m helping the parishioners by being involved in those activities,” she explains. “It’s also so great for me as someone growing in my spiritual life to have something to always fall back on at the Church and at the Parish.”
Olivia says while she’s attended public school her whole life, her Catholic faith was fostered by a great example from her father who is a long time parishioner at St. Matt’s. He also put Olivia through youth groups and religious education classes to help her grow spiritiually.
“It’s so important and I highly recommend going through those classes and continuing to foster that whether you go to a Catholic school or not,” Olivia says.
She says attending a public school is different because not only is not everyone Catholic but many are not even religious.
“So really having a formed conscience, knowing what you believe in and being able to standup in that way is just incredible and something that has really taught me a lot,” she says. “It’s really taught me a lot of lessons on how to deal with different types of people. Obviously you are not going to get along with everyone but being able to talk to them and let them see how my faith has impacted the way I act, not only with my academics but how God comes first and really be able to show his life through all the activities that I do has been a real lesson for me. Being that person that is able to talk about my faith openly in a public school–maybe not even just directly –but carrying myself the way I carry myself with my faith, has been huge.”
Olivia takes great pride in being ranked #1 in Riley’s Senior class but she admits it’s not something she expected when she first arrived at Riley as a freshman.
“That’s crazy to think about,” VanMeter says.
At school, her activities are countless from being a swimmer, drum major in the band, President of the Student Council, Secretary of the National Honor Society & Sports Editor of the school newspaper.
“That’s what makes high school fun,” Olivia says. “Yeah, I’m ranked 1st but at the end I could not be 1st and that’s OK with me because I was really involved and I’ve made a lot of memories in high school.”
Olivia says all the activities have caused her to learn to get work done as it comes in and not procrastinate. She says the demands of swimming have taught her time management skills. Olivia has been swimming since she was four.
“I really enjoy that competitive adrenaline when you dive in but also that team aspect of it, learning how to encourage my teammates and show Jesus’ light through how I carry myself on deck and show sportsmanship to other teams.”
Olivia says she didn’t sign up to be the drum major but when band directors had a need, they approached her because of her leadership skills. She says she never saw herself conducting the whole band but has appreciated the opportunity to take on the role. She’s played the sax most of her life following in the footsteps of her uncle.
As for what’s next… no surprise Olivia intends to put a lot on her plate in college. She wants to go to Notre Dame and major in neuroscience and behavior with a double minor in theology and journalism and eventually do cancer research with that degree. Theology was something she wanted to study because she stopped CCD classes after she got confirmed and went to public school. Her work as sports editor of the school newspaper has inspired her love for writing and she wants to continue down that road. Neuroscience and cancer research came after her grandmother died of cancer in 2019.
“I realized something leading to the betterment of people and researching how to eventually cure those types of cancer that affect so many people really led me to that. I just hope with that degree, I’m able to accomplishment what I want to.”
She says she wants to give a shoutout to her mom and dad and to Monsignor Michael Heintz who fostered her faith when he was at St. Matt’s.
And finally, she expressed her love for the education and experience she’s received at Riley High School.
“I couldn’t see myself anywhere else honestly,” Olivia says. “There is so much goodness here at Riley and often times in every school there is stuff that goes wrong but knowing once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat and holding that forever is something I’m really proud of and wouldn’t be possible without our principal here Mr. Henderson and all of the other administration who show up every day to see success in each of us as students.”
Be sure to check out our interview with Olivia that’s linked above. The Student of the Month interview airs between 7:30-8am on the 1st Wednesday of each month on Redeemer Radio. To nominate a Student of the Month, go to redeemerradio.com/student and fill out the form.