BY POLK COUNTY

John H is preparing for the trip of a lifetime: diving and doing scientific research in the coldest place in the world, Antarctica.What You Need To Know
A local 15-year-old is pursuing a wide range of interests, from diving to flying planes

John’s latest goal is diving in the coldest place on Earth

He will be part of a team conducting scientific research while in Antarctica
John’s larger life goal is to one day become an astronaut
“He’s impressive to watch,” John’s mother, Nicole, said. “It’s awesome, but it’s quite a journey. With every success, there’s trial and error, frustration, let downs. The other side is to watch him go through it and keep such an amazing attitude.”

John has been filling his schedule in a variety of ways, committing to more than most — from 4H to volunteer work. On other days, the 15-year-old tackles other high-octane pursuits, like flying his first solo flight at the age of 14, diving to work on coral restoration projects, or rappelling down walls at Flaming Arrow Boy Scout camp, where he also serves as a counselor.

His mother said that she realized from a young age her son was serious about his goals, and it would require a commitment on her part that included homeschooling and focusing on experiential learning in order to aid him in his pursuits.

John received an invitation this past fall, which stopped Nicole in her tracks. Instead of diving with the SCUBAnauts in Lake Denton outside of Sebring as part of his work to become a MasterNaut, her son’s invitation was to dive with a team this February in Antartica, where he would learn about climate change.

The team’s scientific research would be shared with universities, potentially even NASA, with the dive live-steamed back to classrooms throughout the state. John would also be the youngest on board — and one of the youngest ever on such an expedition, which commemorates the 150 years since the HMS Challenger crossed the southern polar circle.

“He has gone to a whole other level with this,” Nicole said. “Because he’s 15, there are only certain courses he can take, age restrictions, you have to be 18 to do certain things, but the knowledge is amazing. He has learned so much in these last couple of months.”

As he considered the proposal to join the expedition, John quickly realized the price tag — $60,000 — would pose a significant hurdle.

But instead of being discouraged by the cost, John’s mother said he began feverishly applying for grants, awards, contests and the family also set up a GoFundMe account.

“She was like, ‘Man, how is that going to happen?’ It seems so expensive, especially when I put the budget together,” John said with a smile. “I told her if 6,000 people donate $10, I’m done there.”

For now, John continues to prepare for the scientific expedition, diving in chilly waters, like those of Buffalo, N.Y., and learning about new gear, which will be his shield against the sub-zero temperatures of Antarctica.

“I think the moment I become deterred is the moment things become not possible … for me, failure is just not an option,” he said. “Doing a lot of extreme things I do, scuba diving, flying, it gives you the mindset that failure is not an option.”