“The world doesn’t stay in place”: Walnut Creek Grad Kyle Thompson on Making Plans
Walnut Creek Campus 2018 graduate Kyle Thompson has been fascinated with space since reading an astronomy book in second grade. His interests expanded to other areas of science, but space continued to captivate him. He had intended to study astronomy during his time at Valley High School, but learned in ninth grade that he would need to make a new plan.
Thompson had experienced stomach illness his entire life. In ninth grade, he and his family received a diagnosis: Crohn’s disease. During his first three years of high school, Thompson was hospitalized 12 times, had 10 MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans, and checked into the ER at least six times. He and his family even received a trip from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children and young adults with critical illnesses.
“I was prepared to battle it the rest of my life,” he said.
Due to his illness, Thompson withdrew from Valley in the spring of his sophomore year. His family and counselor Larry Mandernach hoped the break would give him time to heal and map out the rest of his education. Transferring to Walnut Creek Campus in October of his junior year ended up being one of the main steps Thompson took.
“As far as having a struggle in your life, being (at Walnut Creek) is wonderful,” Thompson said. “The reason kids succeed here is the teachers. They go above and beyond. If you’re having a bad day or are not acting like you normally do, they notice it, almost like a family member.”
The Walnut Creek atmosphere and staff members supported Thompson’s use of a growth mindset. He learned the strategy from his doctors and says it was his “greatest tool in high school and against disease.” That mindset and dealing with the unexpected shaped Thompson into a completely different person than he remembers being as a ninth-grader. He says he is more friendly and compassionate; he is more understanding of his peers. As he approached graduation, Thompson focused outward instead of thinking about himself.
“(Graduation) definitely means you overcame four years of adversity,” he said. “I wasn’t the only one who had a tough four years. It truly is significant to see everyone overcome adversity.”
Thanks to a colectomy in April 2017 and new Crohn’s disease treatments, Thompson returned to Walnut Creek full time. Walnut Creek counselor Leah Lingren and Mandernach worked tirelessly to help Thompson graduate in 2018. His hard work and their support resulted in an acceptance letter from the University of Iowa, received the night before his graduation party.
Thompson’s doctors also influenced his future. Exploring space remains one of his main interests, but he has opted to follow a pre-medical track in college. The new plan formed after he talked with doctors and residents who told him his passion for the sciences would serve him well in the profession.
“I started imagining it,” he said, “and since then, I haven’t been able to imagine myself doing anything else.”
Though Thompson plans to become a doctor, his words of advice for future graduates bring to mind his lifelong passion for stargazing. Whether it comes from years of looking at the stars or his experience creating fresh plans, Thompson wants his peers to remember that struggles do not last forever.
“Things always get better,” he said. “The world doesn’t stay in place.”