2022 Simply Amazing Teen: Kaden Heller
by rebecca stewart | photos by Kristin Jean Photographer
Since 2010 we have had the privilege of spotlighting teens in our community who bring a little something extra to the game. This year’s Simply Amazing Teen began making his mark as a seventh-grader when he became active in Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA). His project focus quickly turned to cultivating a campaign on kindness. Something, he notes, matters regardless of the size of your school or community.
Indeed, 2022’s Simply Amazing Teen comes to us from the small, rural community of Reed Point, Montana. In Kaden Heller’s graduating class, there are four students (one of whom is his brother) – and about 20 students in the high school. Having lived and gone to school in Billings until the fourth grade, it was a bit of a culture shock making the move to the family ranch in Reed Point and going to school where the total number of students equaled what was once his classroom size. Still, Kaden recognized that even being a small school, cliques still form, and being part of a small community, he says, “You kind of need to be a big family.” He was proud to see his project on kindness implemented across all grades.
We should mention that Kaden’s first project in FCCLA was to create a recipe that was both healthy and delicious. Food would be a reoccurring theme throughout Kaden’s high school career, leading us to the accomplishment that he is most proud of; being elected to the Governor and First Lady Youth Leadership Council to fight childhood hunger in Montana. As a sophomore, Kaden and 12 other selected students went to a conference in Helena where they were given guidance on the mission and purpose and heard from various speakers, including those from No Kid Hungry. The students had monthly conference calls to check on project progress – the youth were to implement projects that help fight childhood hunger in their respective communities. Kaden notes that it was a lot of work, and he’s grateful that he participated sophomore year, even if the COVID-19 pandemic did throw up some serious roadblocks.
In conjunction with his FCCLA chapter, Kaden’s original plan had included organizing a 3-on-3 basketball tournament that would raise money for the local food bank and the school’s HOPE Pantry. Although the pandemic put the kibosh on the tournament, Kaden was able to partner with local grocery stores to create Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter food baskets for families in the community.
HOPE Pantry was created as a space to make food available to students. Another FCCLA member built upon the premise of the HOPE Pantry and added a hygiene locker, along with sending fruit baskets each week. The hygiene locker is a space where anyone can go, and Kaden explains, “they don’t have to put themselves in front of anybody, they don’t have to ask for it, they can just go get what they need.” Every Friday, fruit baskets are sent around the school, allowing students to take fresh produce home and bags of meals to last through the weekend. Kaden shares that the pantry is sustained by funding from the Reed Point FCCLA Chapter and money from the Cole’s Pantry network based out of Bridger, Montana.
In his junior and senior years of high school, Kaden has participated in the Seniors Serve Seniors program. He laughs as he explains that in his junior year, the senior class was comprised of a set of twins, so if they were gone for something, everyone was gone. So, the program allows people in the community to order school lunches. Then, the students are released to deliver lunch to senior citizens ahead of the senior students’ lunch hour.
As I listen to this affable young man talk about his life and plans for the future with a ready smile, it’s clear that he was born to be a helper. After high school, he will attend Grand Canyon University in Arizona, majoring in Biology focusing on Pre-med. Currently, he’s aspiring to either work in sports medicine or become an ER doctor. He credits the three knee surgeries he’s undergone, along with the influence of a grandma who is an EMT and a grandpa who was a volunteer firefighter, for his interest in medicine.
Students interested in the medical field, take note. Kaden was accepted to attend MedStart Summer Camp his sophomore summer, which he says was eye-opening and a lot of fun. In this weeklong experience, Kaden shares that he heard from an incredible variety of speakers from all sorts of medical professionals, including psychologists, PAs, scrub techs, and more. When asked what he gained from the experience, Kaden says, “When I first started MedStart, I knew I wanted to go into the medical field, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.” Not only was it beneficial to receive such information, but he appreciated getting to meet “a bunch of kids from across the state who had the same goals and be able to talk to them and find out what they’re doing to prepare.”
Though he’ll graduate from high school this May, Kaden will go into college with roughly 43 credits already completed. Kaden explains, “I technically only have one high school class, and the rest are college classes, but my English teacher has a masters, so she teaches dual credit, which is nice.” Last semester he took 23 credits and 20 this semester online through Dawson Community College. Essentially, Kaden says, “I’m basically jampacked with schoolwork all day.” Perhaps a bonus because he’ll be that much more prepared for the college workload experience. He notes that these two semesters, though stressful, have taught him a lot.
Kaden’s Time Management Tips for Underclassmen:
- Use a planner! Every Monday, take time to write down all your assignments for the week and check them off when you are finished.
- Crossing them off gives an odd sense of relief, especially when you have a massive workload.
- Don’t procrastinate. Just get the work done.
In addition to the full class load that Kaden is carrying and his various volunteer endeavors, he is also student council president. It’s his leadership that teacher advisor Jessica Haldenwanger credits for the effectiveness of the school’s student council. She recognizes the extra work that Kaden puts in outside of his academic day. Things like making coffee for students and teachers at 6am every Friday to raise money for his class and volunteering to help with the school yearbook, editing and assembling pages, and taking photos. As has always been true of our Simply Amazing Teens, Kaden operates with a full schedule. To cope with the stress of a jam-packed senior year schedule, Kaden still makes time for one of his great loves, art. Specifically pottery. “I love throwing on the wheel. I really enjoyed that class, so I try to make time as much as I can.”
As this self-proclaimed introverted extrovert prepares to head off to college, he’s looking forward to enjoying this summer and spending as much time with friends as possible.
Special thanks to Shipton’s Big R for generously gifting Kaden with a clothing allowance
Originally printed in the May 2022 issue of Simply Local Magazine
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