Niall Gillen (17′) | Our Students Our Stories

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Niall Gillen, has been recognized in our Rotary Student of the week.

Niall Gillen

Rotary Club of Beloit | Student of the weekRotary Club of Beloit
Student of the Week
October 2016

A Journey of Opportunities

Niall Gillen’s parents, Dr. Barbara Higgins, a hospitalist at Beloit Memorial Hospital, and Shawn Gillen, a professor at Beloit College, couldn’t be more excited and proud. Niall’s academic experiences, from elementary school through Beloit Memorial, have helped inform and expand his perspective on life. It has been a stimulating and vigorous journey of opportunities that have encouraged Niall to pursue ever greater challenges.

Niall Gillen

Niall Gillen | Three-time returning Essentially Ellington Students at last years invitation notification


The Beloit Memorial Jazz Orchestra

Niall took advantage of many of the academic opportunities available at Beloit Memorial including AP classes such as history, chemistry, calculus and extra-curricular activities like the varsity swim team. His love for music led to his involvement in the BMJO (Beloit Memorial Jazz Orchestra), Wind Ensemble, and Pep Band. He is key member of the Sax/Flute section of the BMJO and plays five instruments. The BMJO continues to earn invitations back to the nation’s premier, invitation-only Essentially Ellington H.S. Jazz Band festival and competition held at the Lincoln Center in New York City each year. He has been a member of this nationally recognized, award winning jazz band since his freshman year. This year as a senior and three time Essentially Ellington veteran, he hopes to help lead the Jazz Orchestra into earning yet another invitation to the festival this spring. Meeting elite student musicians and professional musicians from across the country has been an incredible opportunity for him.

A Thank You to Teachers

Niall acknowledging several of his teachers with gratitude, including his swim coach Richard Vogel, band director Chris Behrens, and AP history teacher Matt Flynn. They have taken special interest in his academics and have been supporters of his music pursuits. Niall has also been part of the Porter Scholarship program at Beloit College, where he has studied Russian, Economics, and Jazz Saxophone.
Niall Gillen | Beloit Memorial High School Jazz Orchestra


An Eagle Scout, Niall studied civics, camping, outdoor crafts, wilderness survival, first aid, journalism and even stamp collection in scouting. It developed many different parts of himself and stimulated his interest in the world. “I think that the programs were as important to him as athletics or music, especially when he was younger” said Shawn. “Girl and Boy Scouts are an under-utilized resource in our community as well as in American culture. I think that putting children in a situation where they will be stimulated is good for them. Scouting does a good job of that. Take advantage of it.”
BMHS Jazz Band 1 Essential Ellington

A Dad’s Perspective

Niall’s parents have seen their older daughter Claire graduate from Beloit Memorial and are preparing for Niall to graduate in the spring, “I can honestly say to other parents, a balanced program of athletics, reading, swimming, scouting was huge in my son’s life” says Shawn who continued, “Some of these programs channeled my son’s energy and inner pride.” The Beloit Public Library, along with their staff, was one of the family’s favorite places. It offered programs like reading clubs and other events that helped build an awareness of different perspectives towards life for Niall. Finally, Dad emphasized his sense of an increased awareness and appreciation by his son, for the diversity provided within the school and broader community that fostered a strong sense of Beloit pride. “Get them involved!” advises Shawn, a proud father.

School Bio

Niall Gillen has been selected as a Rotary Student of the Week. He is the son of Shawn Gillen and Barbara Higgins.

Niall has been a High Honor Roll student all four years at Beloit Memorial receiving awards for Outstanding Academic Achievement along with maintaining a cumulative GPA of 4.00. He has received the Superintendent Scholars Award and Department Awards in Social Studies and Math. Niall is a member of the BMHS Nation Honor Society and a Beloit College Porter Scholar.

While at BMHS, Niall has been a member of the BMHS Band, Wind Ensemble and Jazz 1. He has earned the following following awards in music: Outstanding 9th Grade Musician, Most Improved 11th grade Musician, Honorable Mention Tenor Sax Solo-Essential Ellington, and in 9th and 11th grade, the Essential Ellington Outstanding Saxophone Section. Athletically Niall is a member of the BMHS Varsity Boys Swim team.

Outside of BMHS, Niall is involved with Boys Scouts earning the rank of Eagle Scout. For his Eagle Scout project he organized a school supply drive. He volunteers at Hands of Faith.

Niall’s furture plans include attending either Kenyon College or Macalester College to major in Economics, Russian, Chemistry or Political Science.