From excelling on the AVHS Debate Team to overcoming mental health, Senior John Boals proved he has what it takes: a drive for a more inclusive world and a personality that changes the people around him for the better.
Born and raised in Minnesota, Boals was diagnosed early with ADHD and as a result, had trouble in a traditional classroom. Though, he always looked on the bright side of things, and continues to contribute his “random spurts of intense focus where I’m able to get an amazing amount of work done,” to ADHD.
Along came high school, and with it, a dedication to debate.
Though initially hesitant about joining the AVHS Debate Team, after the help of an open-mind and persuasion from his mother, Boals rose into debate and with great success, making top four at the recent State Debate Tournament.
Boals said the activity has taught him “how to voice my opinion and has helped me become a more confident person.”
Earlier this year, Boals received his first bid to the Tournament of Champions, one of the most prestigious national debate competitions. The achievement was a selective process, as debaters must gain two bids by doing well at national tournaments prior before being able to qualify for the tournament.
Not only has Boals flourished in the debate community, but he has also made an impact that is reflected in his peers and fellow team members.
Junior Kenan Anderson described Boals’s debate style as “aggressive and very sassy which some people can see as obnoxious […] this can sometimes can come off the wrong way [but] if you’re good friends with him, you know he usually doesn’t mean all the shade he might be throwing in round.”
Sophomore Serena Abraham described a Boals’s pre-tournament pep talk as 11/10 and stated, “John has made me a better teammate because I want to help the younger kids like John helped me.”
Fellow team member Trinity Ek said, “Knowing John has been one of the biggest highlights throughout my high school years.”
Ek continued with, “He’s also overall a caring, silly and unbelievably intelligent person. He gave me a place to feel safe and welcome, ate way too many pretzels when we went shopping [and] was right by my side at the height of my speech and debate session. I am honestly so blessed to have him in my life.”
Though impressive on scoreboards and held dear by friends, what few may not know is that Boals’s admired personality developed alongside a company of highs and lows.
Freshman year, Boals came out as bisexual. He described coming out as “a milestone,” but doesn’t want it to define who he is.”The idea of it as this big event really annoys me because I feel like I’m more than that.”
Like most, Boals continued high school but described his late sophomore year as “probably my lowest point,” when he was diagnosed with and hospitalized for depression and anxiety, which led to a “downward academic spiral” that he would spend junior year recovering from.
He says he was lucky for access to effective care and while quoting Kylie Jenner, “I feel like this year is really about, like, the year of just realizing stuff,” noted sophomore year as an emergence of self awareness.
So far, Boals has described his senior year as “a year of networking because my time is filled with communication with different schools and dealing with scholarships.”
Outside of school, Boals finds passion elsewhere besides debate.
“I’m really interested in philosophy which is both a blessing and a curse,” Boals stated, “while it’s taught me to think deeper about my life, I constantly find myself overthinking the most basic things.”
Boals also enjoys cooking to de-stress (he also likes food.) Fun fact: he’s a vegetarian.
But Boals’s voice for what he believes is right isn’t just limited to not eating red meat.
His childhood surrounded by a Midwest-based family led him to note, “I didn’t really have a good idea of how different culturally the US is.”
Though growing up unexposed to diversity, John now looks towards progression for the better.
Ek described a night with Boals at the Radical Seeds Event at the Minneapolis Institute of Art as a night that “strengthened his admiration for arts of all kinds and his desire to get out more and participate in change.”
Change is exactly what Boals strives for; he described the Women’s March on DC – which took place on Jan. 21st – as an event that really got him thinking: “The massive display of power against the current government by the general population really inspired me and gives me a lot of hope for the future.”
Boals projects his passion for an inclusive future – Anderson went on to say knowing John has made him “more aware of a lot of social issues [and] what it is like for members of disadvantaged groups to live in a white male dominated, heteronormative society.”
Two quotes Boals lives by are: “fake it ‘til you make it” and “make it work.” He says, “… they’re kind of interchangeable […] for me the idea is that even if you find yourself in a bad situation, you’ve just have to keep going and take the hand you’ve been dealt and ‘make it work.’”
As for his plans for the future, “I’m mostly focusing on getting into a college while avoiding as much debt as possible. I honestly have no idea what my life will look like in even a month or two.”