Snow and rain never bothered Rick Garuckas. From an early age, he became fascinated by weather and loved to watch storms come in across Lake Erie near his childhood home. Garuckas’ childhood involved studying radars and reading books about hurricanes and blizzards.
“I always knew it was my dream to work for the National Weather Service,” he said. Now, a successful meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tennessee, Garuckas reflects on his journey that led him to achieve his dream job.
Garuckas still remembers the day he visited Julie Billiart Schools’ Lyndhurst Campus. It was Saint Patrick’s Day of 1998. Garuckas entered the third-grade classroom of Sister Lois for a shadow day. “Right away, I noticed there was a big difference. There were other students like me, which was really refreshing,” recalls Garuckas.
When his parents informed him that he would be attending Julie Billiart Schools for the fourth grade, he was nervous, but he tried to keep his positive shadow experience in the back of his mind. As the school year progressed, Garuckas knew that JB was a good fit for him.
“They recognized early on what my struggles were and what I needed to do to combat them. They took the time to evaluate me individually and see what I needed to be successful, and they worked with me to give me those tools. They took the time to help me be successful because they believed in me. I would also like to thank my mom and dad for always believing in me and allowing me to have the best education and programs offered by JB."
When Garuckas graduated from eighth grade in 2003, he felt confident that he had attained the tools he needed from JB to be successful. He attended Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School, then went on to Kent State University’s Geauga Campus in Burton where he took part-time classes. In 2010, he transferred 65 credit hours from Kent State University to Oswego State University in Upstate New York.
After graduating with his Bachelors of Science in Meteorology from Oswego State University in 2015, Garuckas worked from home for a private weather company in Des Moines, Iowa part-time. During this time, he also worked for Lake Metroparks as a Science and Outdoor Educator.
Then came the opportunity of a lifetime! Garuckas had an interview with the National Weather Service’s Cleveland office. He was one of three final candidates out of 180 applicants. Although he didn’t ultimately get the job in Cleveland, he was encouraged that he made it to the final three.
“I was disappointed, but encouraged. 2018 went from me being disappointed to being really excited,” remembers Garuckas. Later that year, he found out that he got the job with the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tennessee. Garuckas moved in mid-September of 2018 and has been there ever since.
In February of 2019, Garuckas covered catastrophic flooding with numerous fatalities. It was a very moving experience for him because he realized how much the weather can impact people’s lives. Not only is he doing what he loves, but he is working to keep people safe. “It doesn’t feel like a job. I wake up every day doing what I love. It’s everything I thought it would be, plus a little bit more,” said Garuckas.
When Garuckas is not behind the weather desk, he likes to run and hike. He also enjoys exploring new places. His goal is to visit all 50 states.