His parents didn’t finish high school, but they taught Chris Henshaw to succeed
They never finished high school, but they instilled in him belief in the importance of education and the drive to succeed.
Germanna Community College student Christopher Henshaw of Culpeper has been chosen for the Virginia’s Community College System’s most elite scholarship.
The 19-year-old, whose focus is computer engineering and who graduated from Culpeper High School in 2013, is one of 10 selected by the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education from 23 VCCS schools to be part of the 2014-15 class of Valley Proteins Fellows. The program helps promising second-year students pursue their academic goals and hone their leadership skills. He learned he had been chosen earlier this week.
He says he’s excelling academically simply by “doing what my parents taught me,” even though neither graduated from high school. His parents, Robert Woodall and Barbara Woodall of Culpeper, have always stressed the importance of a college education and made his studies a priority. There was never any question in their minds whether he would or should go to college., Henshaw says.
His father is a train conductor and his mother had been a truck driver before going on disability. “I want to show them I’m going for it,” he said.
Robert Woodall is Henshaw’s stepfather. “I’m incredibly grateful for him,” Henshaw says. “He’s a brilliant man.”
Henshaw says a scholarship from Aerojet Rocketdyne last semester obtained through the Germanna Educational Foundation was particularly important because his father missed six months of work after tearing a bicep in November and his mother is disabled.
He’s putting himself through college, he said, with help from scholarships and student loans. He works one day a week at a church.
“If I could maintain a full-time job, I would,” Henshaw says. I just don’t have time for it. I have to focus on my school work and getting an engineering internship.”
The GCC Educational Foundation paid for Henshaw to make a trip to Philadelphia with the Germanna Engineering Club for an American Society of Mechanical Engineers student conference at Drexel University. He watched as four Germanna students who have mentored him won an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Design competition there, besting major universities including Yale and Drexel. Germanna was the only community college in a field of 18 colleges and universities.
The team consisted of Reuben Strangelove, Andy Fabian, Zach Yee and Ethan Fiore. Those four GCC students had worked on the UAV for three months and Strangelove attributed the victory to Germanna simply working harder to prepare than the bigger colleges.
“Seeing that much work put into a project really shed light on what I’ll be doing in the future,” Henshaw says. “It opened my eyes.”
He said he’s been surprised by the other engineering students’ willingness to help him.
“They’re all great people,” he says, giving of their time to tutor him. “It’s really nice. Because of the way they’ve helped me, I will do the same for others in the future—if they need help, here’s my number, call me. I don’t care if it’s midnight, wake me. It’s a circle coming back to you.”
He said he’s been impressed with faculty at Germanna, including engineering Prof. Davyda Hammond,. “Dr. Hammond knows her stuff,” he says.
“I’m going to go as high as I can. It may take time, but it’ll be worth it. My parents say to work hard now and I can play later. I just have to keep working. Keep going. Don’t slow down.”