When Daniel Podratsky was young, he learned to appreciate history through listening to his veteran grandfather’s stories about the Korean and Vietnam Wars and visiting battle sites with his father.
“I love the story-telling aspect of history,” Podratsky said.
As a member of the Gonzaga College High School Class of 2019, Podratsky has been able to apply that early interest in the past to the present: he has most enjoyed his classes in history and math, and was part of a group of students that, over the past two summers, researched Gonzaga’s past ties to slavery.
“Working with microfilm, meeting archivists and historians at Georgetown, and then being on the team to share our research and working with the school to make sure future classes at Gonzaga can appreciate this has been definitely the most meaningful experience of my high school life so far,” Podratsky said.
Podratsky hopes to major in history or public policy in college this fall and to pursue a future career in one of these areas, “something I could help give back with,” he said. He is the son of Michael and Teresa Podratsky and the older brother of Matthew, who is in the sixth grade. The family are parishioners at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Arlington, Virginia.
Attending Gonzaga has also provided him with another unique experience, Podratsky said, noting that Gonzaga’s campus is home to the Father McKenna Center, a homeless facility for men in Washington’s Ward 6. The center also serves as a hypothermia clinic in the winter, Podratsky said.
“We’re one of the few high schools that have that opportunity,” Podratsky said. “I actually got to live there for a week after my freshman year as part of a McKenna Center immersion trip. That meant sleeping on the McKenna Center chapel floor, waking up early to serve breakfast and lunch, and we toured DC to look at other homeless facilities. That was an incredible experience.”
Podratsky has also participated in other summer service experiences, including helping the rural poor in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and living with and experiencing the lives of several undocumented families in rural central Florida.
“Something that stayed with me is that people who are marginalized, especially the homeless, appreciate money or food, but what they want most is to be viewed as real people, and not to be ignored,” Podratsky said. “My experiences have helped me look at the homeless and acknowledge them and wish them a good day.”
His Catholic education, shaped by a love of history and service, has provided Podratsky not only with a strong academic and intellectual foundation, but has also framed his perspective of the world and his faith.
“What Catholic school has taught me the most is that being Catholic is a lifestyle, it is habitual more than just showing up to Mass every Sunday,” he said. “It’s service, it’s community, and it’s self-reflection.”
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