There are many people here at WEGO who are very talented and involved. There is also one student in particular who has been instrumental in establishing the school’s first-ever Robotics Team, and strives to do the best he can in whatever task he undertakes. Jack Riconosciuto is someone everyone at West Chicago Community High School should know.
In the center Wildcat den in the LRC on March 16, Jack rested on a spinny chair with a t-shirt and sweatpants, a single brown, smooth table in front of him, and a TV flashing the words “no signal” to his side.
As he sat up in his chair, he jokingly said, “So everything I say is on record. Darn, I was going to tell you about all of those kids I murdered.”
Clearly, Jack has a sense of humor.
Jokes aside, Jack’s interest in robotics, math, and science comes as no surprise to those who have watched him grow up.
“Jack has always been very enthusiastic and curious. He’s never been afraid to ask questions. Even when he was little, he’d ask big questions and we wouldn’t give the simple answers adults would usually give to kids because we could tell he was really listening and trying to understand,” said Jack’s mother, Jen Riconosciuto.
Jack Joseph Riconosciuto is pretty sure he got his middle name from his dad, who also has the same middle name. At age 16, Jack is a junior, but he says that he tends to forget his age a lot due to COVID, making it seem like his time on this Earth has been short-lived.
In addition to his parents, Jack lives with a brother, who is currently in eighth grade. Unlike most siblings, Jack said that his brother and himself really don’t fight with each other, so they get along with each other.
Their family also owns two pets. One is a dog named Julio, and the other is a rabbit.
Jack said, “My rabbit is named Agatha and she kind of acts like the spawn of Satan, but it is funny because she is white and fluffy.”
There is an interesting reason why his family chose the name Julio for their King Charles Cavalier and Bichon mix: Jack’s grandma has a dog, named Rosy, that she adopted at the start of quarantine. There is a Paul Simon song called “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”, and one of the lyrics mentions Rosy, the queen of Corona. So, Jack’s family decided to hop on the trend when they adopted Julio in March.
Although the family may have an affinity for Paul Simon’s music, Jack said that his favorite celebrity is Neil deGrasse Tyson. Tyson is an astrophysicist, planetary scientist, author, and science communicator who is well-known for his TV show Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey. Jack actually got the chance to meet Tyson somewhere between December 2021 and January 2022 during a podcast that Tyson was recording.
“I have been listening to his star talk podcast for years and his book Astrophysics for People in a Hurry helped get me into cosmology topics early on. In any case he has been an important educator for me, and it was really awesome to see him in person.”
Jack is currently in his third year at West Chicago Community High School.
“Everyone was telling me that high school was going to be so different from middle school, and I was just honestly just surprised how similar it was,” said Jack.
Jack likes many of the teachers who work at WEGO, but his favorite is Nick Caltagirone. Caltagirone is one of the humanities teachers who facilitates classes in American History, AP World History, and philosophy.
“Jack is an excellent student,” said Caltagirone.
Even though Jack really enjoys math and science, “Spanish is actually my favorite class,” he said.
Jack takes Spanish with Elizabeth Mastroianni, who started teaching at WEGO 2 years ago. Jack, who loves learning the linguistics of Spanish, even used his knowledge of the language during WEGO Spooky, a Halloween event for local children held at the high school, offering themed activities and games for them to do. He said WEGO Spooky was a cool experience because there were some families who did not speak English, and so Jack had a chance to use his Spanish skills in the real world.
“Jack has a really positive impact on the students in the classroom. He continues to participate and ask questions that get other students thinking! He has great energy that others feed off of,” said Mastroianni.
In addition to his interest in foreign languages, Jack has been involved in robotics since middle school, when he first got the chance to have fun with some robots. Jack’s mother found an advertisement on Facebook about a robotics team, and so began Jack’s hobby. Later on, he and LRC Director Carol Naughton formed West Chicago Community High School’s Robotics Team. The team recently finished their competitive season, which was centered around a robot named Willow.
Jack said that, “All of us wanted it to kind of be a human-y name, so I said ‘Willow’ because I thought that many people would support that, but it was really because it was a name of a character from one of my favorite TV shows.”
Unbeknownst to his teammates at the time, the name Willow came from The Owl House by Disney. It is a show in which a girl travels to another world that is filled with magic, and so she not only learns how to do magic, but also makes friends. Jack recommends watching the show because he found it interesting and also because it was created by the same people who made Gravity Falls.
Of the Robotics Team leader, Naughton said, “He exudes enthusiasm for learning, math, engineering and a variety of other subjects that he continuously shares with his teammates. He’s also a lot of fun.”
Jack is also involved in other activities, including band, WEGO Global, Student Council, Book Club, Math Team, International Club, Interact (a volunteering club), STEM Scholars Club, and MathWorks.
He is a talented musician who plays “the flute, piano, and piccolo.”
“I can always count on Jack to lighten the mood or offer a thought on something that has absolutely nothing to do with what we’re working on. He keeps things interesting! Jack has improved immensely as a musician this year. From learning to play the piccolo to joining the pit orchestra for musicals, he is always pushing himself to do more and go the extra mile,” said teacher Marissa Janiszewski, who is also WEGO’s band director.
He continues to take piano lessons to further his aptitude at the instrument. Jack started playing piano in eighth grade, and thinks it is the best instrument to play by itself because of the chords, unlike the flute, which can only play one note at a time. However, he acknowledges the flute is pretty in a group. He also used to play the viola, which is a smaller variation of the violin.
More importantly, Jack is a good person who is well-liked by his peers. He has a core group of friends who describe him as “willing to learn new things” and offer “helpful advice.”
“Jack is one of the most caring people I’ve ever known. He always helps me with schoolwork if I need it, and offers to help me study sometimes as well,” said good friend and junior Effie Giannoudakos.