SkillsUSA Champions Spring Magazine : Page 12

“Back then, people could come up to the terminal, so the minute I got off the plane, there was my whole extended family. It’s always exciting when you find out there are all these people who love you no matter what.” It was more than exciting; it was a fairy tale come to life. But fairy tales eventually settle into reality, and as time went by, Waterhouse realized that not everyone would be so welcoming when it came to his size. Standing tall “At first, I took [teasing] very hard, and it brought me down,” Waterhouse says. “But once you’ve been through so much, there are only two paths you can go. You can accept who you are and become strong with it, or you can let things keep bugging you and bugging you to the point where you just break. Now, I wouldn’t change a thing about me.” That inherently strong sense of self was fortified when Waterhouse enrolled “I’ve learned that once in a graphic arts class you believe you can at Decatur High School in ninth grade. do it, you have no fear. New instructor Mark You can stand up tall.” Jones resurrected a SkillsUSA program Max Waterhouse, pictured before leaving Russia as a that had lain dormant 5-year-old with his parents for a decade and convinced the student to run for regional For the Waterhouse family, Max’s office. success story makes Russia’s recent, “The first thing I had to do was write politically motivated ban on American a speech, and speaking is one thing I adoptions of Russian children all the don’t enjoy doing,” Waterhouse says. more heartbreaking. “But I’ve learned that once you believe “Seeing firsthand how many children you can do it, you have no fear. You can are in need and the conditions of the stand up tall.” Waterhouse delivered his orphanages, it’s a tragedy to limit these speech, won the election and extended forgotten children for a chance at a his extended family. family,” Andrea says. “Max has benefited greatly from “If kids don’t have parents who can SkillsUSA,” his mother says. “The take care of them,” her son adds, “they programs and training have allowed really don’t have a future, and Russia is a him to carry himself with a level of hard place to live. I was lost when I was professionalism not typically found in a younger. I didn’t know what I was going teenager.” Today, Waterhouse is SkillsUSA Geor-to be. I was a scared little kid. “I learned a lot from my parents and gia’s treasurer and an active member in school about who I trust, that they’ll be Little People of America, the nonprofit there when I fall, and they have been. organization that helped make his I’m in a better place than where I started. adoption happen. He has two younger I’m happy where I am.” siblings, Levi and Violet, and competes in the Dwarf Athletic Association of America’s National Dwarf Games, a yearly amateur competition covering a variety of sports. Waterhouse credits the teamwork lessons he’s learned in SkillsUSA with helping his performance at these athletic events. “One of the main things I love to do is serve and help others and be a leader if I can.” He is considering a career in engineer-ing or law school, “but my biggest thing I want to do,” he adds, “is go into youth work as a minister. I want to be the one who’s helping the youth, understanding who they are and being there for them when they need it.” As Waterhouse looks to the future, he can’t help but spare an occasional glance to the past, to a metaphorical gateway that led not to Siberia, but to a family’s love warm enough to thaw the Russian winter he left behind. • 12 SkillsUSA Champions Spring 2013

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