Mitch Gadapee slept with a football for three months to get better at catching it. He’s dined with the The Breakfast Club, he’s nearly a legal adult, and now he’s taken on the role of student member of the Colchester school board.

“It’s a cool opportunity to make the everyday life for students in the district better and to see how the real world works,” he said. “The back and forth, the planning, the formalities, the red tape you have to get through; it’s a great tool moving forward for where I end up after school.”

Gadapee saw the student board member role as another opportunity to serve his community and to explore his love of politics.

This past summer, Gadapee was elected governor at Green Mountain Boys State, a leadership development program through American Legion focused on different aspects of government.

“It was one of those Breakfast Club scenarios where everybody comes together, from all different groups, and it just melds perfectly,” he said. “I had this dinner table, dubbed the Dirty Dougs. One of us had just signed a professional free skiing contract with Redbull, one was a first generation Asian American, one had toured the world, one was planning to hike the Long Trail when he was done—that’s how the whole week was. It was so cool.”

When asked who he would be in The Breakfast Club Gadapee said he’s the one who cracks a joke; breaks the tension. “They can bring up the serious political debate but if you want to know what type of food is the best, that’s where I come in. Let’s talk it out over food,” he said laughing.

“I always try to be moderate while having strong beliefs. Sometimes that’s a tight rope that you have to walk,” Gadapee continued. “You can respect a person and still disagree. Just because I don’t agree with you on your stance on this, doesn’t mean that I can’t learn something from that different opinion.”

As far as serving his community goes, Gadapee remarked that what makes the CSD special are the relationships between faculty and students, at every level. “t’s kind, respectful, upbeat, energetic. That growth-mindset, positive learning environment. What’s best for our students and the district is what continues to grow that mindset; what continues to move us in that direction in terms of being a district that works for everybody and every student.”

In addition to this new role, Gadapee juggles varsity football, basketball, speech team, National Honor Society, the Umatter Mental Health Club, five AP courses, and college applications. But upon meeting him, with the carefree laugh and casual “Lakers” jersey, he seems stress-free. For Gadapee, mental health and dealing with stress is something that everyone can relate to; it’s as common as a sprained ankle, he said. So the carefree laugh is not a mask for stress; rather, Gadapee said he’s always learning how to better manage his stress and be open about it.

“Our school does an amazing job with dealing with that breaking-point type of stress. When your stress gets to that extreme level, this is how to handle it, this is what you can do,” Gadapee said, in explaining the beginnings of the mental health club. “[As members], we think that’s amazing so we thought, lets build off of that foundation that the SD [school district] laid and find ways to deal with everyday stress. How do you deal with the stress of a test tomorrow, how do you deal with the stress of a bad day? Or talking about anxiety, what to do when you’re not feeling yourself?”

Since its inception, the club has put stress toys in classrooms, and are testing a worksheet that students can fill out anonymously and give to counselors. “It’s something I’ve been very excited to be involved in. I can personally connect to it,” he said.

Next to all of his academic activities, Gadapee is most passionate about football. “I live and breathe football. It’s just—it’s my game,” he said. But according to him, he isn’t as naturally talented as some of his friends. In fact, he calls himself a “grade-A klutz.”

How does that affect his ability to play? “You have to learn how to get around it. You can even use it to your advantage, in a way,” he said. “For me it’s been the hard work, the dedication, the repetition. I’m a person who throws themselves into something: practice, practice, practice…”

That’s part of the reason why he slept with a football for three months.