Wildcat of the Week: Sophomore Ryan Handley rock climbs and lived in South Africa

Sophomore Ryan Handley prepares to make a jump to the next hold while rock climbing at Sequence climbing gym.

Wildcat Photo

Sophomore Ryan Handley prepares to make a jump to the next hold while rock climbing at Sequence climbing gym.

Lauren Stanton, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Not many De Soto High School students can say  they have lived in another country, however, sophomore Ryan Handley is one exception. 

When Handley was in kindergarten, he and his family moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, for his dad’s job.

While in South Africa, Handley got to experience many environmental and cultural aspects that are different from life in the United States. 

“We [Handley’s family] got to go into [the den] and pet lion cubs under supervision,” Handley said. “You could stick your head right out the window [and pet the lions].”

The attitude within the school system is also very different from what it is like here. 

“It was more about learning the content and focusing on the content rather than focusing on a score. I mean, that could have just been elementary school. It seemed more enjoyable,” Handley said. 

The landscape, wildlife and human population was also very interesting for him to experience. 

“It [Johannesburg] was really diverse. There were a bunch of different African ethnicities and a lot of European influence so there were a lot of French speaking people there,” Handley said. 

According to Handley, this experience was life-changing and opened his eyes to poverty around the world. 

“It kind of changes you because it’s really sad. We would be driving down the highway, and there would be like full towns just made out of Home Depot cardboard boxes with metal roofs,” Handley observed. 

He lived there for two years until his dad’s job’s project was complete before moving back to the United States. Even though South Africa is slightly dangerous, Handley would still like to go back and visit places from his childhood. 

In addition to living part of his childhood on a different continent, Handley partakes in a very unique activity: rock climbing. 

Handley began rock climbing just over a year and a half ago. 

“I did it [rock climbing] a few times and it just kind of got me hooked. Then I started progressing and getting to do more difficult problems,” Handley said. 

Handley rock climbs on a weekly basis, attending a rock climbing gym in Kansas City, Missouri, roughly three to five times a week. 

“I go on a pretty consistent basis. I have to take a break certain times though because school and life gets in the way,” Handley added. “I’ve been going to a climbing gym called Sequence. It’s really cool. It’s a little bit more modern day. It’s a little bit of a bigger gym. They have more problems and different varieties so I like that in a little bit better.”

Rock climbing may seem centered around the idea of reaching a specific endpoint; however, it is more about each step or movement you make. 

According to Handley, “a lot of small things like foot placement can make a big impact” on a person’s climb up the wall.  

Looking towards the future, Handley hopes to continue rock climbing and maybe even climb at the collegiate level. 

“I’m looking at Colorado because they have a whole bunch of rock climbing places. They actually have rock climbing teams. It’s an actual sport down there,” Handley stated.

Overall, Handley really enjoys rock climbing due to its many benefits and enjoyable nature. 

“It’s really different. It incorporates so many different skills. It’s a really intense exercise, but it doesn’t feel like exercise. It feels like you’re just having fun,” Handley said.