John Van Horn

Max Druckman, Editor-in-Chief

Octagon Club’s outstanding junior John Van Horn was selected as one of the FTHS October/November Club Students of the Month. Always upbeat, energetic, and kind, John’s hard work and dedication to community service are certainly worthy of recognition. John sat down with the Patriot Press to discuss his work and reflect on his award.

Congrats, John! How does it feel to be recognized as Club Student of the Month?

– It feels good because I put a lot of work into community service, so I guess it’s good that I got recognized.

Could you explain what Octagon Club is?

– Yes. Octagon basically just gets community-related service events, not just for getting kids hours since they need them for NHS. We try to stress helping the local communities. Most recently, we did Haunted High School, which went really well. I helped Mrs. LaPlaga with lollipop ghosts and we had all the kids write the names of their ghosts on the board. It went well.

I heard it was a success!

– It was a success. We actually got a lot of kids into it, they weren’t just taking lollipops, which was good.

How did you first get into the club?

– My friend Landon told me about it. We were both looking for something else to do to get community service. So we talked to Mrs. LaPlaga, and she told us to stop by and do a couple of events. That’s really how I got into it.

So what do you think doing so much community service has taught you?

– Hard work. Originally, I thought that I needed to get into NHS and needed to get 30 hours of work. You think of it as a chore – I have to get it done and never hear from it again. But, it’s taught me that, there are people, it’s crazy to think in 2022, in Freehold that don’t have enough food or don’t have anywhere to live that you can help. It taught me to sacrifice my time for other people.

I think that’s a great lesson to learn! What leadership position do you hold within the club?

– Honestly, not anything now. I applied for president, so I might have gotten that, but Mrs. LaPlaga hasn’t gotten back to me yet.

So Van Horn 2022 here we come?

– Mr. Ferrando actually calls me president. Freshman year he said that Van Horn sounds like the name of a president.

As you mentioned, a lot of people see community service as a box to check or feel that they have to add up hours. Do you have a message for those people?

– Yeah. I think a lot of people don’t consider what they’re actually doing in community service. They think I have to check this box off the list. You don’t realize that in something as small as giving food or cleaning a beach, you’re making the world better each time you complete a service event. That’s a lesson to learn.

You talked about Haunted High School as a success. What’s another event for the club you want to see happen?

– Definitely Haunted High School. I think one thing we could do, especially around Thanksgiving and the holiday season, is organize a mass food drive. I want to pitch that to Mrs. LaPlaga because there are so many people who need Open Door and are ashamed to do so because they can’t afford food. Especially during the holidays, you don’t want to keep anybody out. So, I’m going to see if we can organize one. I know DECA is also doing one. I want to see if we can put all the food together. Obviously, you can get community service hours for that. I know a lot of the time you can do it through the church, so I’m going to push that to Mrs. LaPlaga.

So for students coming into Township who want to get involved and want to give back, do you have any advice? 

– If you’re looking to get involved, I would say put yourself out there. There are a ton of clubs, and I know there’s a little bit of a stigma around them. But, clubs are something that not only help with colleges, but also build character, you get to meet new people, and you get to learn valuable lessons. I think the more that you do, the more you learn.

You mentioned building character. As someone who is very involved, how has Octagon helped you to build character for other things?

– One of the things it’s taught me is that you don’t know what’s going on with a person looking right at them. A lot of the community service is in regard to the poor, or I worked at an animal shelter for a while. You always have to look at somebody with care first and set your judgment aside. You should always be looking to help them and I think that as a junior going into senior year, I have to help a lot of my fellow Patriots.

Here’s what Mrs. LaPlaga, Octagon Club’s advisor, had to say about John:

“John was a huge help on the night of Haunted High School. He came in, ready to go and organized the clean up before I even had to ask the volunteers to do so. He made every single kid who walked through the door feel awesome about themselves and their costume! He immediately noticed the “shy” kids and went up to them and did the activity with them – even some of the parents (upon leaving my classroom) told me how great he was with their kid/kids. In the beginning of the night, he noticed a couple of kids weren’t ‘excited’ about making lollipop ghosts, so he decided to add another element to the activity and make it more ‘fun’ and interesting. After each kid made their lollipop, he walked them over to the board and had them name the lollipop ghost and write it on the board. He is an all-around kind & respectful young man!”

John’s reasons for recognition were:

  • Leadership
  • Dedication
  • Initiative