Senior Josh Uekert returns to FHC with support from his encouraging friends

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Towards the end of his sophomore year, with one decision and just a few words, senior Josh Uekert’s life was forever changed, as his family made the significant decision to move to the small town of Mankato in Minnesota.

While his family prepped and prepared for his father’s promotion and their move, there wasn’t a doubt in Josh’s mind that, someday, he’d be back at FHC.

“It wasn’t very fun to have to leave [FHC], but I got to spend more time with my family and really get close with them,” Josh said. “[As for] the school itself in [Minnesota], it wasn’t the best. It was a lot different, and it was a smaller town. But I felt like I experienced some things, and I think it was good for me in the long run.”

The differences that Mankato held were very distinct, and at the end of the day, that Minnesotan setting was not right for Josh. He longed to be back in the town that he knew and loved for almost a decade.

As the possibility of moving back was discussed with his family, it soon became clear that if Josh was to reappear in FHC, he would have to do so on his own, without his family returning with him. Thus, the concept of Josh living with another family came into discussion.

“It was always something to talk about,” Josh said. “It was between [living] with my uncle or the Nickels, so my parents started texting the Nickels, and I started talking to them about it. And they were super happy to have me. They’re a very nice family.”

With plenty of planning and deliberation, the unique circumstance of Josh living with senior Ben Nickel and his family came into focus. Since attending Goodwillie Environmental school in fifth grade, Josh and Ben have been very close friends, rendering him the perfect “host family” for Josh.

After his junior year, Josh returned to FHC, and he now temporarily resides with the Nickels, allowing him to attend FHC full-time. While it might seem like a dream for many to be living with such a close friend, many challenges soon presented themselves to Josh.

“It’s different not living from your family and having that comfort,” Josh said. “A lot of times, it is tough. I’ll miss them a lot, especially my brother because he’s still there, and [I’m missing] all the sports he’s doing. That kind of bums me out. But I have a ton of friends here who are very supportive, so it does make up for it.”

For this reason alone, the people and community that FHC provides, the changes and forfeitures have all become worth it to Josh. The long-lasting friendships he had in place quickly resumed as his senior year took off on a spiraling path.

“I’m very happy [to be back at FHC],” Josh said. “I’ve already had a great year. I get to be back with my girlfriend, which is nice. And all the friends, the sports, going to most of the football games. And I’m doing the musical, which is really cool.”

Despite being unable to play a sport because of rules surrounding his transfer, Josh has found countless other ways, like participating in the musical, to be involved in his last year of high school. Above all, he does all this with the friends that he returned to FHC to be with.

In the long run, this experience has taught Josh countless lessons surrounding life’s outcomes and the sacrifices it takes to get there. He’s considering utilizing these lessons to embark upon further education at Western Michigan University or Grand Valley University, perhaps to become a pilot.

“It definitely made me a better person, in the sense that I know what it’s like to be in the ‘new kid’ situation,” Josh said. “It made me realize that I have to be a nicer person, and I care a lot more about people. Like obviously I cared about people [before], but it’s a different perspective now.”

Above all, Josh’s experiences have heightened his appreciation for FHC, its people, and its boundless community. With the support of the Nickels, his family who is always with him, and above all, his incredibly supportive friends, Josh is ready to take on his last semester and everything that comes after.

“You know, they’re just great friends,” Josh said. “They’re kind of like my family– my second family. They always support me, and they’re always there for me.”

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