CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN
Judah Whiddon, who is graduating from Sacred Heart School in Washington, will be attending Gonzaga College High School this fall. Sacred Heart School is one of four Catholic elementary schools in the city that are part of the Consortium of Catholic Academies.
CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Judah Whiddon, who is graduating from Sacred Heart School in Washington, will be attending Gonzaga College High School this fall. Sacred Heart School is one of four Catholic elementary schools in the city that are part of the Consortium of Catholic Academies.

When the eighth grade class at Sacred Heart School in Washington was asked to think of three words that describe their classmate Judah Whiddon, the first word that came to mind was “inspiring.”

“When I think of Judah, I think of this,” said his teacher, Kristen Kullberg, as she pointed to a framed drawing on the wall that Judah had made in sixth grade, to accompany a poem he wrote about finding out that his dad had died. The drawing, done with oil pastels, portrays a tiny figure in front of a giant wave, which Judah said represents how he felt when he heard the news.

Kullberg described Judah as an artist, not just because of his skills, but because of the way he thinks.

“He is a humanist through and through,” she said, which is displayed in “his thoughtfulness and his mindfulness of all aspects of what it means to be human.”

When they are studying books, she said Judah has an “uncanny ability” to access both the challenging content and the human elements of all of the characters. His mom once told Kullberg that when Judah was a young kid, when they passed a homeless person, he would not ask why they were there, but rather how they were feeling or what they needed.

Judah contributed to a collection of Spanish poems written by middle school students that the teachers at Sacred Heart took with them on their spring break trip to El Salvador. He wrote about Blessed Oscar Romero, who inspires him because of “how he took it upon himself to help the poor and those who were suffering.”

Translated from Spanish, one of the lines of the poem reads, “He had a brave soul and his heart was full of love.”

Like the Salvadoran martyr, Judah tries to help others and volunteers at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart’s dinner program for the homeless and low-income members of the community.

“I like seeing other people happy. I like seeing other people succeed,” and to be a part of that, he said. “…Everything we do for them I feel it is very special…giving people chances, opportunities.”

While he serves, he passes out plates and washes dishes. He said the people he serves are “really nice,” but it makes him sad to see that a lot of them are under the influence of drugs or have mental illnesses. He remembered one time in particular when a man started yelling at him.

“I felt really bad, not because he was yelling at me, but because I thought ‘How is he going to get help?’” Judah said.

Judah has empathy not only for humans, but for other aspects of God’s creation as well.

“I care a lot about the earth. I really like animals. And insects…I’m pretty cool with them,” Judah joked, saying as long as they didn’t interrupt him, they wouldn’t be squashed.

In seriousness, Judah said he doesn’t like seeing animals get hurt, recalling one time when he was leaving his home and saw half of a mouse on the walkway.

“It was just really sad seeing that something is dead,” he said.

Judah has attended Sacred Heart since pre-kindergarten, and remembered how he and his dad used to frequently bring donuts in for the teachers. Next year, he will be going to Gonzaga College High School in Washington, which he is excited about because of the school’s emphasis on being “men for others.”

This attitude is also present in his current school, Judah said, where, “We like to help each other. We bring each other up.” He said the values and virtues present in Catholic schools are important to him, because they are the reason why people treat one another nicely.

“We worship God. He influences the choices we make,” said Judah, who is a member of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Washington.

While he doesn’t yet know what he wants to do when he grows up, Judah intends to continue studying art in high school. He said he likes drawing action cartoons, or anything that has a lot of movement in it.

“I see something somewhere, and if I think about it long enough, I’ll probably draw it,” he said. “…What I enjoy about making art is to see something really beautiful in nature, something beautiful that God created, that He probably meant for me to see…meant for me to think about. For me to capture it and think about it some more is really important.”