There’s nothing that Thomas Stark likes better than exploring the woods of North Idaho - camping, hunting, fishing and just seeing what is out there to see and discover.
It turned out to be just the right place for a boy like him to grow up, a place that Stark’s father Joseph selected for them after the boy’s mother, Darlene, died unexpectedly in 2007. Stark had lived his early years in Texas, where his older brothers remained, but moved with his parents to Pennsylvania to be close to his maternal grandmother. But then, with the death of his mother, his father had choices to make.
“He thought we might have a better life here,” Thomas, 18, said. “Everything available outdoors here would be perfect, so he came on a scouting trip and found a house for us to rent in Spirit Lake before we built our own house there.”
And all those things that the father wanted for the son have happened for Thomas. “It’s been great growing up here.”
He even purchased an old police cruiser at an auction and has fixed it up, with a paint job featuring the Punisher symbol from the comic book character. “But before that, when it was still black and white, it was funny how people would slow down when I’d pull up next to them in traffic.”
Even with all of the good things in his life, Stark struggled early in high school. “I was just lazy,” he said, “and found myself low on credits. When my counselor suggested I transfer here (Mountain View Alternative High School in Rathdrum), I kind of resisted. Everyone said it was a place for kids on drugs or who were stupid or just didn’t fit in. Boy, it’s totally different from what I thought.”
Stark said the curriculum is arranged differently than at a traditional school, but that he still has to do the same work. “We get so much more individual attention from the teachers, which is great.” As a result, he has caught up on his credits and now has an overall GPA of about 2.5, with about a 3.0 since attending Mountain View.
“Thomas is one of those young men who does what he does because it is right and not because someone is telling him to do it,” said Paul Uzzi, Mountain View principal. “He has been a great role model for other students.”
At school, Thomas participates in the Youth Against Pregnancy program, and he also works as a wash bay attendant at a local auto dealership. He’s seen friends get in trouble with drugs “which has totally changed them,” so he’s stayed clear of that. He credits his older brother David as being a positive influence in that regard.
After high school he will either enter the military (his older brother Josh is in the Air Force) or attend a school in Texas to learn to be a heavy equipment operator.
But this summer he’ll work in North Idaho and spend a little more time scouting around the woods that mean home to him.