CMA cadet is Culver's version of being in everything, everywhere, all at once
Sept. 30, 2022
The question isn’t so much where is Culver Military Academy cadet Joseph Parker ’24. The better question might be: Where isn’t Joseph Parker?
“Anywhere and everywhere I look, I find J.P. He just pops up,” the Rev. Brenda Hafer, Culver’s Protestant campus minister, said. “He likes to do everything.”
Parker, a second-class cadet from Maywood, Illinois, is Culver’s version of a Renaissance man, a well-rounded student of varied interests and talents with a thirst to be constantly learning and challenging himself.
He’s on stage in theatre and concert band, he’s behind stage working on sets, he’s competing in track and field and fencing, he’s on the exhibition drill team, he’s active in the Black Student Union and Model United Nations, and he’s involved in Christian Ministries, including in Youth Group and Praise Band. He also was previously in choir.
He’s involved in so many things that he had a hard time remembering them all and had to be reminded of one or two. And he still left one off. But he knows where he needs to be every day.
“People know they can rely on me to do a lot of different things and I am around, because that’s just how I am,” he said.
Parker said staying busy helps him get things done. He’s proof of the adage that if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.
“Staying busy helps me get things done. Because if I have free time I’m just going to procrastinate. ‘Oh, I can do that later.’ But if I’m busy, I know I don’t have time. I need to get this done now,” he said. “It helps me with my schedule.”
The area where Parker excels the most is in track and field, where he competes in the 200-yard dash and the 4X100 relay. His first love, though, is theatre.
“Because it’s the community the students build when we’re working on a project or our production,” he said. “Just the relationships we build with how we learn our lines and mess up and go through each scene piece by piece, building the play until we can finally perform it and show the school and others what we can do.”
He was part of the ensemble in last year's performance of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and has been involved in various exercises and in set design.
Zachary Gipson, Culver’s director of theatrical design and production, describes Parker as creative and hands-on.
“He’s sort of a jack-of-all trades in the shop. He can hop around and plug himself in where needed, from light carpentry to working with fabric. And he’s also just a great collaborator,” Gipson said. “He’s also a student who can run the light and sound boards. He’s a great technician.”
Parker said he gets the same feeling just before performing a play and running a race.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” he said. “You know what should happen and you just go with what’s there and try your best to finish what you have to do.”
The interest he finds most challenging is concert band because reading music doesn’t come naturally. He plays the mellophone and the French horn.
His career goal is to be involved with movies or television in some fashion, although he’s not exactly sure how.
“A mix of photographer and filmmaker, or something to do with television or cameras or creating something to show to an audience,” he said.
What makes Parker good at so many things is his adaptability and his quick thinking. He likes Model U.N. because he likes learning how countries debate issues and the world’s problems.
“It’s like debate club, only more real. You’re talking about topics that actually are current. So you’re able to understand something that’s actually happening,” he said.
Parker said if he had a little more time he’d like to perform with choir and get involved in photography. He also would like to try aviation. But there are only so many hours in a day.
Parker said most students at Culver aren’t aware just how busy he is, but they do notice he gets places fast.
“People notice how I can be one place and as soon as that’s done, appear someplace else within about 10 minutes. They’re like, ‘How’d you do that?’ I tell them, ‘That’s who I am.’ ”
CMA track coach Scott Johnson ’94 W’89 said he got annoyed last spring when Parker occasionally told him he was going to be late or miss a practice because he had a play rehearsal or some other conflicting event he needed to attend.
“I was irked until I realized, this kid is getting the whole Culver experience. So I was a little more patient,” Johnson said.
People describe Parker as focused, good-natured, funny and someone who never complains.
“He just works hard and quietly goes about his business,” Johnson said.
Quiet is another characteristic that people mention frequently about Parker, which is surprising for someone so involved.
“It’s as if when he does speak, when he adds to the conversation, you don’t want to miss it. He has something to say or a good joke. But he doesn’t feel the need to fill the space,” Hafer said. “He’s just a good kid. He’s a really good kid.”
Parker also doesn’t boast about how many things he’s involved in, she adds. “He doesn’t let you know how good he is at a lot of things.”
Parker said he knew after attending Woodcraft Camp that he wanted to attend CMA because of all the opportunities available.
“I understood with Culver, you have to be open. So I was like, ‘Let me try everything that I can.’ And then, if I didn’t like something I didn’t like it. But for the most part, whatever I joined, I liked,” he said.
Parker said Culver can seem challenging at first, but he would tell anyone considering attending a boarding school that Culver offers many unique opportunities.
“Once you find your place, you will find your flow. And with your flow, you can expand, meet new people, do new things and you will eventually find success,” he said. “I love it here. I just can’t wait for my senior year to see what new challenges arise.”
So while some might be asking where Parker is, or possibly where he isn’t, Parker has a different question: “What’s next?”