Editor’s note: Every year, The Herald Journal profiles one graduating student from each valley high school. Profiled students are selected by administrators at the schools.
LOGAN, Utah — It’s been not once but twice that graduating senior Stephen Winfield II has had to significantly turn around his grades in order to graduate.
“It’s hard to believe, but on the other hand, it was just really habits,” Stephen said. “Doing the same thing over and over again.”
Since age 11, Stephen had been doing online school. But as he began taking high school courses, that model wasn’t really working for him.
Stephen spent most of his days in the same room where he slept and did coursework. He was failing his classes and knew something needed to change. When his mother, Carla, suggested Fast Forward, he decided he would give it a try.
“I went there thinking I’m not going to graduate, it’s going to be hard, but they helped a lot,” Stephen said.
According to Carla, it was a complete turnaround.
“He started making over 100s,” Carla said. “And then he wouldn’t settle for anything less than an A. It had to be an A or an A-plus, not an A-minus, but an A.”
Not only were Stephen’s grades improving, but his areas of interest were also expanding.
“He was a real quiet kid, kind of just kept to himself,” said Zakk Lewis, an English teacher at Fast Forward. “But over the last couple of years, as he has been here, he has really started reaching out to other students. He has grown to love art and styles of writing and poetry. He has learned how to express himself and really develop that part of his academic self.”
As Stephen’s love of writing grew, he started writing poetry and sometimes participated in Helicon West at the Logan Library.
“That was a big change from my nice, quiet son to going up in front of everybody and reading,” Carla said.
Despite all the hard work Stephen put in, things took a change in October when his father was hospitalized for gangrene and sepsis. Stephen spent a lot of time visiting him in the hospital and had a hard time focusing on his coursework.
“I just didn’t have the right mindset to be there,” Stephen said.
Then at the end of November, Stephen was hospitalized for over two and a half weeks with pancreatitis. As he was recovering from that, he was diagnosed with diabetes.
“Being in the intensive care unit was the hardest four and a half, five days of my life, the most painful,” Carla said.
Even after he was home, Stephen’s physical condition made it hard to do the work he needed to graduate.
“When I came out of the hospital, I walked for about 10 feet and then I needed to sit down for half an hour. I couldn’t do anything,” Stephen said.
Stephen said his counselor was understanding of his situation and provided him packets to complete.
He said the physical recovery he had made since being released from the hospital helped him focus on doing the work to graduate.
“I figured if I can go from not being able to walk 10 feet to being able to walk two miles, I can do some packets,” Stephen said.
Lewis said it was impressive to watch Stephen’s perseverance as he did this.
“Those things by themselves are huge challenges that I don’t think many kids his age would overcome on their own, and he has been able to do that,” Lewis said. “He perseveres, he keeps going and going, and he does it all with a really positive attitude. He always is looking for the good in a situation.”
Now that Stephen is graduating, he plans on working for a year and then attending Utah State University. He’s interested in studying writing but also exploring the other courses available to him.
According to Lewis, Stephen has an open-mindedness that will help him as he makes this transition.
“Any time I would present new information or a challenging assignment, he would look at it for what he could gain and how it could better his life, which is really good,” Lewis said. “That is something he can take up to Utah State and really excel with, where he takes the information and applies it to his surroundings and tries to become better from it.”
Stephen said he feels part of what will help him excel are the obstacles he has overcome while in high school.
“If I can do this, then other stuff can’t be too tremendously harder than what I’ve done so far,” Stephen said.
As for Carla, she is so excited to cheer her son on as he walks across that stage.
“Now I just can finally get past that ICU room and can see my son, I’m so proud of him,” Carla said.