By Caroline Gerber As any Lake Forest High School student can tell you, Rickey Myles is far more than the head custodian. He is a school legend, known for his rousing megaphone speeches in the cafeteria. But he is much more than just the man with the megaphone.
Myles recently returned to his job as Head Custodian of Building and Grounds after a 12-week recovery from open heart surgery.
"The kids are my favorite part of the high school and my job," say Rickey Myles, who has worked at Lake Forest High School since 1984.
An only child, Myles graduated from Waukegan High School and went on to earn a degree in finance at Jackson State University. During his years at JSU, Myles became a six-time NAIA All-American collegiate track star. He graduated JSU in 1978 as a highly decorated athlete and was later inducted into the JSU Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.
After graduating, Myles worked in the corporate division of the Bank of Zion until he joined LFHS to work in the custodial and security departments in 1984.
Myles’ energetic presence and lively spirit can be seen in his iconic game day speeches delivered throughout the football season. Every Friday of the season, Myles sets off a blow horn and walks around the lunchroom delivering a motivational speech through a megaphone encouraging the football team for their upcoming game.
“Every game his speeches hype us up and inspire us to succeed,” said junior wide-receiver John Olivi.
In referring to his motivational style, Myles said that “it comes right off the top of my head. No planned speeches. I tell it like I see it.”
This rousing tradition is deeply rooted in the concept of Scout pride, being the best you can be, and fully participating in all aspects of life.
“The megaphone started because I was making myself hoarse yelling at everyone about enjoying life as a high school kid,” said Myles. “I want to tell kids, you’ve got so much going on around and you’re just staring at your phone texting? Go out and see what’s going on in the community; you’ve got everything out there.”
During remote learning, Myles took his megaphone to the front of the school to deliver one of his iconic speeches, which was put on the Boosters Facebook page.
“I want to motivate the kids. Being an All-American, you know the work ethic that’s needed to get there,” said Myles.
That incredible work ethic has stuck with him throughout the years, and he channels it daily into his job.
As the head custodian, “I take care of just about everything, I keep track of everything that happens each day,” said Myles. “From 5:30 in the morning until 8 p.m., I make sure everything is where it’s supposed to be.”
Myles’ colleagues describe him as a knowledgeable, hardworking individual with a go-getter attitude.
“If he can do it himself he does it himself,” said custodian Jesus Bran. “Oftentimes when facing a problem, I’ll ask myself, “‘What would Myles do?’”
After almost 40 years at LFHS, Myles jokingly said, “You can’t handle the stories,” referencing several senior pranks.
“One year they brought a goat into the building, took it up to the third floor and put it in a teacher’s classroom,” said Mysles. “Unfortunately, these kids fed the goat so much Ex-Lax that after repeatedly relieving itself, the goat passed out.”
Another time, “they jammed raw meat into the heaters,” said Myles. “And then there was my personal favorite when one student released about 1,000 crickets into the school.”
Despite the craziness, “the kids are my favorite part of the high school and my job,” said Myles.
The students at LFHS feel a great deal of admiration for Myles, with one art class choosing him as the subject of their mural, which now hangs in the school cafeteria outside of the coffee shop. In response to seeing the mural, Myles jokingly said, “Oh God, I gotta get them to take that thing down.”
Myles is married and has four children: Rickey, Ryan, Bronson, and Heather. In his free time, he enjoys golf, riding his motorcycle, and playing with his three grandkids.
His best advice for high school students is “everything in moderation and enjoy the moment. Your friends are playing, you’ve got a whole community, so be part of it and enjoy it,” said Myles.
As for when he will part ways with the school, Myles said “I’m leaving that up in the air.”
Whenever that may be, Myles’ voice and spirit will echo for years, not just in the cafeteria, but in the hearts and minds of all those he has touched over his nearly 40 years at LFHS. This article was first published in The Forest Scout.