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Flathead student runs on supportive leadership

by HILARY MATHESON
Daily Inter Lake | January 15, 2024 12:00 AM

Flathead High School senior and athlete Hailey Hendrickson is a motivated student and decisive leader who guides others with encouragement and kindness.

“Hailey is a smart and kindhearted leader with the tenacity to keep her running strong whether on the cross-country team, in the IB [International Baccalaureate] academic program, or in her many FHS school and community activities,” Flathead Career Center Manager Kristin Bay wrote in her nomination of Hendrickson who is a recipient of the Winslow Nichols Leadership Award. 

The award, which is sponsored by Logan Health, in collaboration with the Daily Inter Lake, recognizes the academic achievement and community involvement of high school students who contribute to improving the lives of others.

Her cross country coach, Jesse Rumsey, also noted that Hendrickson is the type of leader who is assertive, organized, diligent and professional.

Hendrickson has taken on different leadership and mentoring roles on the field as a cross country and track and field athlete and in the classroom as an engaged student. 

As part of the award, honorees choose a school club or activity to receive a $250 donation. Hendrickson plans to donate the money to the cross country team, which puts on an annual marathon run-a-thon fundraiser open to the community.

“The coaches and the team are incredibly supportive, and they are an amazing group of people. My involvement in the cross country team has helped me develop both athletically and helped me to foster a healthy balance between athletics and academics, ensuring that I prioritize my physical, mental, and emotional health,” Hendrickson said. 

“I’m grateful to the cross country team for the family I’ve found within them and for pushing me out of my comfort zone. I have grown into a more capable, persistent, and confident individual,” she said.

Hendrickson described what attributes she believes make a good leader.

“I think an effective leader is somebody who's compassionate and caring, but also has the ability to recognize when stronger authority is needed, and so that they can kind of push people in the right direction. But you also obviously want a person who is caring for the individuals around them and is willing to listen and is a good communicator about their goals and ideas,” she said.

In cross country, Hendrickson was chosen by her peers to be a team captain in 2023. 

“That was a huge honor because we have a huge team and there’s a lot of amazing people,” she said.

As one of the team captains, she assisted the coach in making decisions about team bonding activities.

“And overall, just be a general strong presence on the team, encouraging and supportive and reinforcing the values that we want to see on our team,” she said.

She said having the perspectives of both participant and leader has helped her develop skills and attributes she hopes to embody.

“I want to be a leader who is well versed in what they’re leading so that they’re very knowledgeable and skilled about that topic and they can be helpful to others. But I also want to be seen as a person who is kind and caring and willing to learn and be open to other perspectives and who is supportive of their team or whoever they’re leading,” Hendrickson said.

She also competed in cross country at state in 2022 and 2023 and worked hard to get there.

“One teacher said running did not come naturally to Hailey and that she has had to work diligently to build her skills and find joy in the activity, but it has now become an important part of her life,” Bay said.

As an athlete, Hendrickson became involved in the nonprofit Girls on the Run Western Montana, starting as a participant, then volunteer coach and most recently as a committee member to assist with planning inspirational activities for the program’s annual 5K end-of-year celebration. 

“It's a running program for elementary-aged girls and they also have a middle school program. And it allows them to get exercise and find joy in running, but also learn valuable skills about leadership and how to be a better person,” Hendrickson said.

She has also been a member of the Special Olympics Youth Activation Committee, which seeks to encourage other youth to be inclusive of people with and without intellectual disabilities, according to specialolympics.org. She’s served in mentoring roles to underclassmen through Flathead’s Brave Mentoring program and to elementary students as a reading buddy in the She-Ra Book Club. 

Academically, she has a 4.0 GPA and belongs to the National Honor Society.

“Hailey’s teachers describe her as very intelligent, analytical and hardworking,” Bay said.

As a member of the speech and debate team, she earned the National Speech and Debate Association’s Academic All-American Award, which is given to the top 2% of members, according to www.speechanddebate.org. She competes in Informative Speaking and Original Oratory.

In support of her school, Hendrickson and fellow classmates started the Student-Led Levy Advisory Committee, to advocate for technology and safety levy requests that were put on the ballot in the last school election. She said she took on the project after being approached by two classmates because of its importance.

“... funding our school district is critical in being able to continue having the large variety of athletic and academic opportunities offered. Levies are important because they impact students and our quality of education.”

After graduation, Hendrickson plans to attend Montana State University. Currently, she is looking at majoring in cell biology and neuroscience to potentially pursue a career in optometry.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

Learn More

Winslow Nichols Award nomination criteria:

  • Eligibility: High school students in Flathead, Lake or Lincoln counties.
  • Academics: Students who value their education by exhibiting academic responsibility; preferably have a 3.0 GPA or higher.
  • Character: Students who display integrity, compassion, service and excellence.
  • Citizenship: Students who nurture healthy communities through community service, volunteerism or other contributions to their community and/or school.
  • Leadership: Students who take initiative and are role models for others.

Forms are available at www.logan.org/tomorrowsleaders.