We spoke to recent StGIS graduate Erick Shepard, who was this year’s winner of our Excellence in Care award. The recipient of this award is a multiplier who brings out the best in everyone else, acting as a role model for others and making everybody’s lives a little bit better. Erick’s journey at St. Gilgen has seen him become an engaged and important member of the community. We caught up with him and asked him a few questions.
How did you feel about receiving the Excellence in Care award?
It was a massive shock. I had no idea. I was just standing at the back of the room and then they just mentioned my name… it was definitely wild – 7 months earlier I had made a mistake and received a school punishment… so then to suddenly be on the stage giving Ms Martina Moetz a hug – It was unforgettable, it really was. I’m so honoured to have received the award!
What are some small ways we care about each other at StGIS?
I think one of the most important school rules is that English is the ‘common-space language’. If there are more than two people in a room and not everyone speaks the same language, then everyone must switch to English. This creates an inclusive and inviting community for everyone.
What are your thoughts about connecting with other international students?
One of my higher level IB subjects was Economics and I sat across from Michael, a student from China. Every day in class we’d bring up something about the trade-war between our two countries and discuss our positions on things like sanctions, embargoes, price wars or indirect taxes. It was an eye-opener and really neat – it happened with students from other countries too. It definitely added a new dimension having students from the different places we were talking about.
As a senior student, how do you handle conflict?
Sometimes a simple distraction works best! For example, I was a bystander in a situation where a silly argument was escalating, and I just started applauding… just enough for everyone to turn around and ask, “What was that?” – sometimes that’s all it takes to break a tension. It made people aware that others were watching and gave them a moment to reflect on the negative attention they were creating. It got a new energy flowing and the moment passed.
You’ve been a big role model to younger students. Who have been your role models?
Definitely John Patton, my Biology teacher and IB coordinator – he wears so many hats it’s ridiculous. He’s a teacher, a therapist, an inspirational speaker… he has definitely been there for a lot of students in hard times. He’s a stellar guy. Also my two house parents, Mr Rob Hilliard and Ms Zoe Leffler. They are a power couple and come off as legitimate parents! I felt like I didn’t want to do anything bad because it would disappoint my house-dad or house-mom! I thought that was really neat.
What’s your take on caring and tolerance in the world?
I do think the fatal flaw that everyone possesses is that people are willing to care and tolerate something, but those go hand-in-hand – people only tolerate what they care about. Until we see a change in that, we’re going to be stuck. I can see that a lot here in the USA and it results in society taking a few steps backwards. Also people only care about something until they’re inconvenienced. This attitude needs to change for there to be progress! Am I optimistic? Absolutely. I think many people do argue that this is the most caring & tolerant world we’ve had to date – all these movements like black lives matter and LGBTQ+… it’s been an explosion over the last few years. That’s people caring. That’s people being tolerant. I think it’s great to see in the world.
What’s next for you?
I want to be a lawyer! I’ve applied to a number of universities under pre-law studies, or psychology, philosophy, political science.
Thank you and all the very best to you, Erick!
Erick’s stories and ideas will be discussed in an article about Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in the article ‘Love to learn, learn to Love’ published in ‘Path of Excellence’ – a book full of extraordinary St. Gilgen International School stories. Stay tuned!