BYRON — After his freshman year of high school, Austin Cole’s world as he knew it changed: the General Motors plant his father worked at closed in Ohio, and in the middle of high school, he was forced to move to a new school.
Cole, now a senior, said when he first started as a sophomore at Byron High School, he was so afraid of being bullied that his friends basically had to force him to talk.
“It was scary at first because the culture was completely different,” Cole said. “My friends respected me and were kind to me and I started making more friends than I realized; everyone seemed to love my laugh and fun personality.”
While many students who are forced to move during their high school years struggle, Cole’s time at Byron has been quite the success story: he’s a three-sport athlete, involved in other extracurriculars and maintains a 3.5 GPA.
Cole has participated in football, wrestling and track and field during his time as an Eagle. In his favorite sport — football, which he’s played since he was 6 — he has played on the varsity team for two years and started for one, mainly at defensive tackle. Cole wrestled for three years on the varsity team, advancing past districts twice. In track and field, which is ongoing, Cole features in shot put and discus. This is Cole’s second year in track and field — he would’ve participated in all three years, but his sophomore season was canceled due to COVID-19.
Cole said he wants to continue track and field in college and he also wants to walk on a football team.
“I’ve played football for such a long time and have many fun memories,” Cole said. “It was the first sport that introduced me to sports and made me truly want to work hard.”
As for where Cole might end up after high school, current frontrunners are Olivet College and Michigan State University. Wherever he ends up, he won’t be starting until the fall of 2023, because he is in a dual-enrollment program through Mott Community College. Upon completion next year, he will receive both a high school diploma and an associate degree in criminal justice.
Cole said he isn’t sure what his dream job in the field of criminal justice would be, but he’s considering being part of a SWAT team, joining the FBI or becoming a detective or a police officer.
“I want to do something new every day and something more physical than an office job,” Cole said.
Recently, Cole used his talents in a completely different extracurricular activity — drama. His band teacher from sophomore year, along with a few classmates, encouraged him to audition for the school play (“The Snow Queen”), where he was chosen for a lead role that required him to act and sing. Cole said prior to the play, he had never sang in front of an audience.
“It was quite an experience. Once I realized my voice was decently good, I decided to ‘let it out.’ It was scary at first, but it turned into an exhilarating experience,” Cole said.
Cole comes from a family he said he has a “very good relationship” with, including his mom and dad; three brothers; leopard gecko, killer; his brother Marcus’ two pet snakes; and two dogs, including his favorite pet, Pele, a Chihuahua.
In his free time, Cole said he likes to practice sports, weightlifts, play video games and fly drones.