Hillcrest High School senior David Holden is something of a math whiz. | Supplied photo by Maurice Young
Updated: May 29, 2014 6:14AM
At Hillcrest High School’s upcoming graduation ceremony, senior David Holden will stand before his class, family and friends as this year’s valedictorian.
It is an honor he doesn’t take lightly.
Holden, 18, is an outstanding student at the Country Club Hills school. He is an all-conference mathlete, and a member of the National Honor Society, science club, leadership team, chess club and Scholastic Bowl, which went to regionals this school year.
He also volunteers regularly at the school.
With those credentials, one might think academics come easily for him. And they do, kind of.
“I’m a math nerd,” Holden said. “I love math and competing with mathletes.”
He tests his skills in mathletes in the oral competition. Students are given a math book and assigned a chapter. After reading it, the students are expected to teach the spectators (and the judges) how to do the math problem.
“I really like math and teaching it,” he said.
He’s good at it, too. Every year, has placed in the conference competition. As a freshman, he placed first, which was so impressive he was bumped up to the varsity team as a sophomore, and he placed third. As a junior, he came in second.
This year was the first time in 20 years the team made it to regionals. So instead of focusing on the individual competition, he emphasized the team effort.
“I thought that would be more important,” said Holden, a resident of Country Club Hills.
But as is the case with Superman and Kryptonite, Holden has a weakness.
“One of the topics I struggle with is English,” he said. “Being valedictorian means I’m well-rounded. I can get an A in a class but the one I struggle with most is English. Being valedictorian doesn’t mean I know everything. I have friends, teachers and mentors who taught me what I need to get where I want to go. My thing is math. It is what I’m best at. I help others with math.
“I struggle with English because I think literally, which is a problem when interpreting text.”
Fortunately, he was influenced by someone he calls one of the best English teachers at Hillcrest High School, Gregory Fitch.
“He has taught me lessons that I didn’t really know and he’s been one of the greatest mentors. He helped me beyond compare,” Holden said.
He also considers Assistant Principal Maurice Young a role model.
“He has taught me a lot of things, too,” Holden said.
He also admires Hillcrest Principal Renee Sims, who gave him an inspirational talk when he wasn’t planning to attend a school event.
“She told me being valedictorian means you represent the school. You have to go to events and be known so people know that Hillcrest isn’t only about the sports but the academics, too. She is one of the greatest principals Hillcrest has ever had,” Holden said.
Next school year, Holden, the son of Annamaria Lewis and John King Holden, will attend Illinois State University, where he will major in actuarial science.
“I’m struggling now on becoming a teacher or an actuary,” he said. “I tutor a lot. It is everything I love to do, teaching and math. When you are teaching someone, and that moment when they finally understand it is the best moment for me.”
But now Holden is torn. He also researched the actuary profession and liked what he found.
“They deal with statistics and probability so now I am leaning toward that,” he said.
“My parents instilled in me if you want to be successful, you have to work hard,” he said. “If you want something done, you have to find a way to get it done, and that keeps me going.”