PASADENA, Md. (AP) – Mark Ritterpusch doesn’t get a lot of sleep. The 17-year-old Chesapeake High School junior says he’s too busy with school work, student government, athletics and community service projects to get any quality sack time.
He may get even less now.
Mark recently was elected president of the Maryland Association of Student Councils for the 2011-2012 school year. More than 1,000 student government representatives from around the state voted in the election March 31 at the MASC convention in Ocean City.
The victory was the latest accomplishment in a student government career that began several years ago at Chesapeake Bay Middle School, when, as student body president, Mark worked with school administrators and the county Board of Education to overturn a ban on backpacks.
He said he realizes he has come a long way.
“I never thought I’d be where I am now,” he said. “I remember sitting at my first convention and thinking, ‘Wow, they have to be nuts to run for this position,’ and now here I am holding it.”
Still, Mark said he is “very excited” about his pending role as president of the MASC, which oversees student government associations statewide and takes stances on issues and bills that could affect students.
“That’s what we’re here for, to represent the students,” he said.
Mark is already president of the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils, which covers all of Anne Arundel County, and has spent the last two years working as state legislative affairs coordinator for the MASC. In the latter position, Mark helped read approximately 2,300 proposed bills over the last two years and testified on more than a dozen in front of the General Assembly.
He is eager to replace Damascus High School’s Michael Hagan as MASC president.
“You can see the difference you make every time you testify in front of the legislature or in front of the Board of Education, or even just teaching workshops on how to be a better leader or how to be a better public speaker,” Mark said. “Every time you teach a workshop at one of our conventions, you see at least one face light up and understand a little bit more.”
Mark is taking six AP classes at Chesapeake, works as a tutor and competes on Chesapeake’s “It’s Academic” and math teams. After he graduates next spring, he plans to go to college, though he’s not yet sure where.
He is looking at Clemson University, Vanderbilt University, Rice University and Texas A&M. He is considering a career as a surgeon.
Dave Ritterpusch, Mark’s dad, said he couldn’t be happier about his son’s accomplishments.
“What I’m most proud of is that he has been able to get kids involved that you would never expect to get involved,” he said. “Once they get involved, I’ve seen kids go into leadership positions and it’s all because he influenced them and took them along. We’re real proud of that.”
From a young age, Mark was always driven, his father said. He recalled when Mark was at Chesapeake Bay Middle School and wanted to play Danny in the school’s rendition of “Grease,” but had no background in musicals.
“I said, ‘Mark, you can’t sing and you can’t dance,’ ” his father said with a laugh. “But that didn’t stop him. He went out and won the role and they brought the house down.”
When Mark attended a yearbook workshop for high school students at Gettysburg College, he was still in middle school and was the youngest student there. But he wrote a stand-up comedy routine for the workshop’s talent show and again “brought the stinking house down,” his father said.
“He just has a natural willingness to go do things,” his father said. “He works hard and finds a way to succeed.”
Mark will take the new position in June.
The Capital of Annapolis
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)