• Trying new things, finding leadership skills

     Josh O'Donovan 1

    June 19, 2019

    Student: Josh O’Donovan

    School: Leesville Road High School

    College: Duke University

    Josh O’Donovan’s family moved to Raleigh from New York when he was in the 10th grade. He loved baseball and the Yankees and focused on making the Leesville Road High baseball team. But when that didn’t happen, he tried something new – the track team. His senior year, winter season, he was the track team captain.

    Building leadership

    Josh’s love of sports and friends who were athletes led him to try PEPI, Physical Education Peer Instructor. He became one of the high school students who go to elementary schools and teach younger students.

    “I took PEPI and decided that I don’t necessarily want to be a full-time teacher when I grow up,” Josh said. “I mean justifying something to a 6-year-old is one of the hardest things you will ever do.”

    What he really liked about PEPI was the way the program builds leadership and communication skills. He followed this interest into Future Teachers of America. There he became a state officer and helped plan the group’s annual conference. 

    Sports stats

    He found a role supporting the Leesville baseball team keeping the scorebook and compiling the team’s statistics. He loved the movie Moneyball and its focus on statistics and athletic performance. He began studying the team’s statistics to better understand the players.

    His work on his mom’s computer analyzing Excel spreadsheets of baseball data led him to take AP Statistics.

    “I had a great statistics teacher, Coach T (Michael Tetreault),” Josh said. “We had to do an end of semester project – compile a lot of data and analyze it with testing formulas that we used. I chose March Madness.”

    Josh collected data for each team including 3-point shooting percentage, offensive and defensive efficiency, the average age of the starting lineup and more that he computed into one number for each team.

    “It allowed me to pick UVA to go all the way,” Josh said. “It really humbled me. Even with all the hours of work I put into it, I was below 70 percent accuracy.” As he predicted, Virginia beat Texas Tech to win the 2019 NCAA finals.


    Josh O'Donovan in cap and gown

    Civics simulations

    The toughest class Josh took at Leesville was AP US History. It inspired an interest in politics.

    “I loved learning about what shaped our country,” Josh said. “I loved learning about the complexities of the American political system, how different presidents have swayed voters and members of Congress to vote in favor of their agenda.”

    The history class prepared him for Eugene McLemore’s civics class where they simulated an election.

    “I served as a presidential candidate,” Josh said. “I had speech writers. I had a marketing team.  We collaborated to build a platform and run an election. I thought that was awesome.” 

    Loves Duke

    Josh has always been a Duke fan. His grandmother graduated from Duke. She inspired him to become a Blue Devils fan.

    “Duke was always my dream school,” Josh said. “As I got older and realized what my academic goals were, I realized that Duke had everything I was looking for. I went on a tour and absolutely loved it.”

    Josh earned an Army ROTC scholarship to attend Duke and he’s considering a major in economics and political science. 

    Josoh O'Donovan at piano

    Hidden talents

    While his love of politics, baseball and Duke are common knowledge at Leesville Road High, most folks were surprised to hear that he can play the piano. Josh took private lessons weekly. He just had his senior recital. He played New York, New York.

    “I worked on it for six months, so it was awesome to play it in front of my family,” Josh said. “Piano has been great throughout high school because it’s been a great outlet to relieve stress.”

    What Josh achieved in high school; he credits to the support of his family. His mom, dad and sister helped him make the transition from New York to Leesville Road and through the demands of finding a college.

    “Everything I’ve done really would have been impossible without my family,” Josh said. “They’ve been super supportive.”