Academic challenges help senior reach his potential

© 2018-Moody County Enterprise

Flandreau senior Josh Henderson has a fairly good idea of what a college class load will be like.

So far, the 17-year-old has tallied up 29 college credits that will put him a jump ahead others his age when he starts college this fall. But, the most recent class he took online, Calculus II, was harder than he expected.

“It was a lot tougher than any other class I’ve ever taken,” he says. In Calculus I, he earned an “A” but still is waiting on his Calculus II grade. “I kind of liked it because it was a challenge.”

Henderson, the son of Louise Henderson and Ben Pearson, recently was chosen as Flandreau’s representative for Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s Academic Excellence recognition of the top 1 percent of high school students in the state. He has a 4.0 GPA and a 4.36 GPA when it is weighed for taking more difficult classes.

Henderson moved to town in second grade when his dad and uncle came from the United Kingdom to start Britannia Dairy, a 1,000-head dairy. He had lived in a tiny village called Welton-Le-Marsh, England, which consisted of only a few houses.

He likes having grown up near Flandreau because of its small size. In England, even small villages were a short distance away from large cities and traffic congestion. “Here, you’re the only car on the road.”

A small school has its advantage, too, he says. “You know everybody; everybody knows you.

You go into the grocery store, and you know everybody who is in there,” he says. “Here it’s more of a community.”

Brendan Streitz, Flandreau’s technology coordinator, says Henderson’s strong work ethic was evident in computer classes he taught and in cross country, which he coached.

In class, Henderson would take what he learned and expand on it, says Streitz, who Henderson calls a mentor. He took every computer science class available by the time he completed his sophomore year and then worked on other challenges such as robotics and technology competitions.

As a student, Henderson takes pride in his learning and is confident in the classroom while also taking time to help others, Streitz says. Henderson also likes to see results, something he demonstrated in cross country, Streitz says.

When Henderson started the sport, he didn’t excel. But he kept timing himself, working hard and asking for pointers on how to improve, Streitz says. By his senior year, he was a varsity runner.

“He was one of our worst runners and became one of our best runners. He had a methodical plan,” Streitz says.

Henderson stuck with the sport because he enjoyed it. “Cross country is one of the only sports I know where everyone cheers for everyone,” he says.

While he hasn’t finalized which college he will attend, he is considering the University of South Dakota or the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, where he wants to study computer science, business administration and math. He hopes to work for a technology giant at some point. “What I’m going to try to do is work for a bigger company like Microsoft or Google.”

He likes computer programming because it allows him to solve problems. “I enjoy problem solving and more hands-on learning.”

Forty-one students will graduate May 19 at Flandreau High School. Teacher and coach Travis Ahrens will speak to the class of 2018 and guests at the 2 p.m. ceremony in the high school gym.

While learning has been fairly easy for Henderson, he has spent long nights studying, especially for college-level classes and 6 a.m. exams.

“I care about school, and I’ve always cared about my grades,” he says. “For the most part, it’s always been pretty easy. I just get it.”

But Henderson cares about more than homework, too. At home, he works around the dairy when needed, enjoys the family pets and plays soccer with his dad and his brother, Alfie, a fifth grader. He also has a sister, Charley, in first grade. The family travels back to England every few years to visit family, too.

Henderson also plays piano, has taught himself guitar, plays alto saxophone in the school band and jazz band and sings in the choir.

“Music is a huge part of my life. I’ve been doing it my whole life, and I plan to keep doing it.”

Both cross country and music give him a chance to just focus on what he is doing.

“I don’t have to worry about I’ve got three papers due,” he says. “Sometimes I will just sit down and play for hours just to relax and get away from everything.”


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