Small Town Life Allowed Bell City Valedictorian to Flourish
Quinton Herkenhoff moved from St. Louis to Bell City just before his freshman year in high school. He'd left the St. Louis school system in favor of being home schooled but he was failing. He convinced his mother to let him move to the tiny town to live with his brother and sister-in-law.
"I needed a change of scenery. I've always preferred smaller towns and didn't like the city. There aren't as many people to deal with," Herkenhoff explains.
As it turns out, the change in scenery was just what Herkenhoff needed.
"On my first day of high school I weighed well over 400 pounds," he says. "I had to weigh myself on the feed scale at the feed store. But everyone here was nice. The desks were small and the food was good."
Herkenhoff joined the basketball team, something he'd never have been able to do in the city. While small towns such as Bell City allow anyone to play, schools in St. Louis have try-outs and in his condition, he never would have made the cut.
"I wanted to give basketball a try. I wanted to be involved with something and losing weight was just something that came along with it," he explains. "My weight challenged me all the time. I couldn't run and I couldn't breathe. It was a challenge every day. My body hurt terribly because I wasn't used to moving around as much. Once I started seeing the weight coming off it made me want to keep going and my teammates were always there to push me."
Herkenhoff lost well over 100 pounds and graduated as Valedictorian of the Bell City class of 2015. He plans to attend Southeast Missouri State University and has already taken six dual credit courses to get a jump start on his education.
Herkenhoff's goal is to become an anesthesiologist, a career which can involve 12 or more years of rigorous study.
"It's a challenge. I like medicine and the human body. I want to go big or go home," he says.
It's clear that this young man is motivated to continue on the straight and narrow path.
"I'm just excited to start getting my schooling done," he says. "I want to still end up near a small town. I'm not too keen on the big city anymore."
Herkenhoff's words of advice to anyone working to achieve a goal are simple.
"Keep trying, no matter how hard it gets. Just keep trying," he says.