Central High senior thrived after decision to switch to private school

2010-05-26T23:29:00Z Central High senior thrived after decision to switch to private schoolZACH BENOIT Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
May 26, 2010 11:29 pm  • 

Ben Webster said he doesn’t know what his life would be like, or where he’d be, if not for a decision he made with his family four years ago.

As an eighth-grader at Will James Middle School, Webster, now 18, made the choice to leave the public school system and attend Central High the following school year. His family liked the idea of smaller class sizes to help him with his attention-deficit disorder.

“In all honesty, I was very hesitant at first about coming to a private school,” he said. “I thought it was going to be hard to adjust.”

But now, on the verge of graduating this weekend, Webster said it was one of the best decisions he’s ever made and may have helped turn his life around.

In February 2002 — Webster was a fourth-grader at the time — his dad, Mike, died of a massive heart attack.

“It was rough” without my dad, he said. “Early on, I was just mad at everything.”

Webster said he didn’t get into a lot of trouble, but he looks at the decision to switch to Central as a crucial one.

“It honestly turned me around 180 degrees,” he said. “I really see myself taking a different path if I didn’t come here. I don’t even know where I’d be. I definitely would’ve done a lot worse in school.”

Webster credits educators he picked up as mentors like religion teacher Mike Martinson and Principal Shel Hanser with helping him thrive at Central, especially because of what he said is an accepting attitude and the chance to explore his faith.

“When I finally got here, I found comfort in that,” he said.

Through his four years there, Webster maintained a 3.0 GPA and has been involved in plenty of school activities, including cross-country, golf, track and speech and drama.

“He’s not your typical kind of leader,” Hanser said. “Maybe he’s not the star of the team, but there’s a tremendous leadership there.”

One thing Webster has excelled at is music, which is a sort of final parting gift from his father. For Christmas in 2001, about two months before he passed away, Webster’s dad gave him a “cheap old Yamaha” guitar that he still owns and described as “my best friend.” He’s played bass in Central’s Mass band and plays guitar in a local band called the Thirty State Bummers.

“He’s into all kinds” of music, Martinson said. “I don’t know how many instruments he has. It’s kind of like his personality, he’s open to all kinds, he’s open to everybody.”

After joining the 76 other Central class of 2010 graduates at Sunday’s ceremonies, Webster will attend the University of Montana in the fall, where plans to study English with the eventual goal of becoming an educator.

“I’m ultimately planning on becoming a teacher because I want to help kids,” he said. “I’ve seen how they can take somebody’s problem and turn it into something good.”

— From Gazette staff


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