To put it plainly, I remember Haley as one of the most genuinely caring people I’ve had the privilege of teaching at Oak Hill Academy. As I got to know her in class and, in her senior year of 2011, as the manager of the girls’ basketball team, I knew she would find a niche that involved being others-oriented. I also knew she could become passionate about the things that interest her. But, as I opened an issue of Bicycling Magazine, I was shocked to see Haley, pictured in full cycling gear, giving her pointers in this gold standard publication. I mean, what’s Haley doing here among the Big Dogs of a sport that takes years to master? I thought I knew her, but she is a cyclist? Then I read on and it made perfect sense.
As I read, and later on from talking with her, I see that the sport she has fallen in love with fits her personality so well. It’s magic when one discovers their passion. Through cycling, Haley is able to be part of a team, yet immerse herself in personal accountability. But it is giving to, and inspiring others, that really makes this sport click for her, she explains. That’s the Haley I came to know at Oak Hill Academy.
I remember the weeks leading up to Haley’s graduation from Oak Hill Academy and how excited she was to be heading to Austin, Texas and to her dream school, The University of Texas. I thought, “cool town, – this is going to get interesting for Haley.” After seeing her article, I was anxious to catch up and see just how interesting it has gotten for her.
Mr. Rodgers: How did the magazine feature come about?
Haley Weaver: Ha! That article was funny. I just wrote some honest comments on a friend’s Facebook status update and then was contacted by Bicycling Magazine!
MR: As your Government teacher, I’ve got to know – What are you studying at UT?
HW: I am a double major in both history and rhetoric & writing. I’m hitting my stride and getting lots of A’s after pausing my college studies twice. I’m especially proud of not giving up.
MR: I can imagine that parallels the sport of cycling. Did your experience at Oak Hill Academy prepare you for these kinds of challenges – academic and personal?
HW: Yes, for sure. OHA gave me an understanding of the importance of personal accountability. In previous academic settings it had been very easy to hide poor academic performance from my parents, and even from myself. Oak Hill’s academic structure taught me to be honest with myself and not to try to slide by unnoticed.
MR: So, would you recommend Oak Hill Academy to the 16 year-old you?
HW: Yes, in some form or fashion, I think about Oak Hill every day. Without the habits, resilience and discipline that I was able to form during my time there I would not be where I am today. I rely on that mindset not only with school, but it definitely set the stage for my interest in cycling.
MR: For you, what was the greatest strength of Oak Hill Academy?
HW: Learning accountability through the structure and small environment. Everything is fairly predictable at Oak Hill: If you do “X,” such as forget your homework or leave your room messy, “Y” will happen without fail.
MR: What is it about cycling you find fulfilling? What else fulfills you these days?
HW: I really enjoy helping people step up their cycling game and realize that they are 100% capable of kicking butt and taking names in a sport that is initially intimidating to a lot of new riders. I especially enjoy bringing women into the race community and empowering them on the bike. I remember how scared I was. Oh, and I also like to cook – but wouldn’t that just be “filling?”
MR: I thought I knew you! How did you get into cycling?
HW: Austin, as you know, is a really cool town and easy to get around. However, the rules for obtaining a driver’s license there (I’m from N.J.) hung me up a bit. I began biking to commute and gradually became stronger. A friend guided me into racing and introduced me to the competitive and ultra-supportive cycling community. I’m a competitive person and now I’m addicted!
MR: What do you remember most about Oak Hill Academy?
HW: The people, for sure. I made some real friendships. Some of the classes I took and the relationships I made with some teachers – Mrs. Richardson’s (now our school Principal) English class, Mr. Rodgers’ Psych and Government classes, Rev’s World Religion, and Art with Mr. Hill stand out. I also get nostalgic for the Blue Ridge Mountains that surround Oak Hill Academy. I grew to love those mountains – they are strong and consistent – their presence commands respect. The Austin area, on the edge of “Hill Country” in Texas, is amazing too, but I know someday I will return to Oak Hill Academy and I’ll bring my bike, of course.
Please see Haley’s feature in Bicycling Magazine. Go to: http://www.bicycling.com/training/tips/how-to-handle-getting-dropped