It’s inspiring to hang out with Henry--he’s accomplished a lot for a 17 year old, and he’s done it in spite of overcoming big challenges. With his easy smile, his confidence in speaking with adults, it’s hard to imagine that several years ago when his family went through a divorce, he found himself in a “negative rut.” Talking with Henry and his grandmother, Susan, he remembers what it was like to be deeply angry, to experience anxiety, and to want to lash out, although he never became violent. His grades faltered, he created unwelcome distractions in class, and he had a bad attitude toward school. He missed his home and the life he’d had. His relationships suffered.
But, the story doesn’t end there. We’ve asked Henry to tell us more about how he found resilience and what his future holds. To get started, Henry told us how he came to understand what it means to live with dyslexia.
“I first learned that I had dyslexia when I was in 2nd grade. I had just transferred schools and was with a new teacher. She recognized that while I was reading I was making errors that a person with dyslexia would have. She then contacted my parents to let them know of her concern, and my parents contacted a dyslexia specialist who officially diagnosed me with dyslexia.
At the time I was in 2nd grade so I did not fully understand what it really meant to have dyslexia, and the challenges that came along with it. Over time I have worked very hard on my reading and writing skills to help try to make it easier for me to excel in the areas where I have trouble.”
“I was three years old when I first started riding my bike. I was a little kid in my neighborhood always riding around in the hot and sunny weather jumping through the air with the wind rushing in my face. It was a sense of freedom that I had never had as a kid and loved the feeling of being able to do whatever I wanted while going as fast as I could.
I did not start seriously riding my bike until I was about 11, when the Lumberyard Bike Park first opened. I went there during the summer when it was still brand new to the public--it had only been open about 3 months prior to my first visit. I walked into the indoor park feeling overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do. But after 5 minutes on the course I was well on my way to becoming the confident bike rider I am today."
By the time I was 13, I had a job at the Lumberyard. While there I did a variety of jobs. I helped teach the camps and classes for young kids, plus I assisted at the front desk, checking people in and getting anything they needed. I was also a course ambassador, which meant managing the crowds of people that showed up to ride. I did lots of different things over the years.”
“Well, I think scaring people is just something most people (or parents) aren't used to seeing. When I was 7 years old my grandmother would freak out if I did a tiny little jump, but now I do jumps that are 15-20 feet long and she doesn’t even bat an eye at the fact. And those are just my warm up jumps.
I knew I liked to take risks because I was always falling down as a kid and always had some sort of scar on my body. I love to be outside and in the forest. That is where I feel most at home. It is just a coincidence that all my sports that I do can be done on the mountain. I am the type of person that has to being doing something active all the time, but it has to being something fun, not like running or doing yoga. It needs to be something that scares me otherwise there is no point in doing it.”
On Cars and Cash…
“I own a 2008 Subaru Impreza STI. It took me about 2 years to get all the money to pay for it. It took hard work and determination to get this car and save up enough money for it. Well, I eventually did and it represents and reminds me of the hard work I did every single day.
Being a high school student and having a job is a hard thing, but there are perks to working hard. You get to earn money while you don’t necessarily have to pay bills. Learning how to budget and spend your money wisely is the hard part. But you have to be disciplined enough to say no and just let your money sit and collect.”
The reason to take a breather…
“I am taking a break my senior year so I have the year off to really think about my future and just have some fun! I have been working 4 days a week and one day on the weekend since I was 14 years.
I am thinking about taking an official gap year at Ridge Mountain Academy in Whitefish, Montana. The rigorous program teaches you the skills and knowledge you need to survive all elements of the mountain. They have a partnership with the University of Montana. After I finish the gap year at Ridge, I hope to go to the University of Montana and study in the Forestry Department. I am not sure exactly what I want to do, but I know it is something to do with the forest and the mountain and their incredible effect on our world.”
Ashley Fungone, Assistant Editor