The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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May 28, 2013

Valley senior enjoys giving back to the community

An Eye Toward the Future

FALLS VIEW — Shy, unassuming, and big-hearted — that’s how one of Cody Winter’s teachers describes the Falls View native who graduates from Valley High School this spring.

“He’s the last one to brag on himself, and even though he’s academically talented and athletic, he’s also got one of the biggest hearts of any kid I’ve been around. But he’d be the last one to tell you that,” says Diane Beard, who teaches history and social studies at Valley.

“I am absolutely thankful and blessed that this kid has been part of my life.”

“He has been a model student all the way through high school,” says Valley’s principal, C. Lee Loy. “He has never had any discipline issues, and in this day and age, that’s pretty remarkable.”

Cody — who describes himself as “a very nice person, sometimes quiet, though I can be funny” — has racked up more than 600 community service hours through his involvement with the school’s Hi-Y club, which Beard sponsors.

He grew up in Falls View and attended Gauley Bridge Elementary before moving on to Valley, which he describes as a small school where everybody knows everybody. He praises the “amazing” teachers there.

There weren’t many kids in and around Falls View, he says, but there was family.

Beard describes him as “very family-minded,” and believes that Cody’s traits come from his strong family background and a desire to make a difference.

He spent a lot of time with his cousin at the town’s baseball field. His Uncle Dennis has helped him out “all the way through” by getting him to baseball games, taking him fishing, and providing all-around support. Beard says his three younger siblings look up to him, too.

Two years ago, Cody’s parents divorced and he now lives with his mother, two brothers, and a sister.

“He rose above that, and that didn’t let it slow him down,” says Loy.

He plays football, basketball, and baseball, his favorite. As catcher, Cody will be playing in his third state baseball tournament Friday against Charleston Catholic.

With a 3.5 grade-point average, Cody is a member of the National Honor Society and says he likes science and math.

In his off time, he’s playing video games or outside shooting guns and fishing for smallmouth bass in the Kanawha or at the mouth of the Gauley River in Gauley Bridge.

“I like the feeling when the fish first bites. And you’ve got to be patient when you fish. I like that about it,” he says.

But his involvement in Valley’s High-Y group is what has made him stand out to Beard.

“He is one of those kids that is the first one to show up and the last one to leave. Anything and everything you ask him to do, he’s always willing,” she says. “There’s never been anything he’s been asked to do that he hasn’t gone above and beyond.”

Students are required to complete 25 hours of community service, but that’s not why Cody became so involved.

“I just like giving back to the community and helping people that need it,” he said.

Beard says Cody was “instrumental” in putting together the club’s Jerry Elliot Walk for Autism, which raises about $4,000 a year for autism research.

Among other activities, Cody and the club also volunteer at the Charleston Family YMCA Special Olympics and raise money for the Kennel Club to provide Christmas activities for Valley Elementary kids.

“Where we are here in the valley, there’s not a lot of opportunities. And I think from a young age, he’s seen that he’s got to make his own opportunities and I think he’s good at that. He’s good at capitalizing on what’s in front of him,” says Beard.

For Cody’s future, she predicts self-defined success.

“I don’t know that success for him will be defined by money or a college degree, although I hope it will. Whatever it will be, it will be something with integrity and something he will be proud of. Whatever happens to him in the next 10 or 20 years, he’ll be happy and successful and it will all come down to what that looks like for him.”

Cody says he’s considering attending WVU Tech in the fall to study electrical engineering, following in the footsteps of two uncles and a cousin.

— E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com

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