New Culpeper County High School principal Daniel Soderholm considers himself the school’s greatest cheerleader.
His role as head Blue Devil is to encourage the students in the school, provide them with an avenue to better themselves and to help the educators lead the students in the right direction.
A native of Chesterfield and a graduate of Manchester High School, Soderholm always felt himself pulled to the education field.
His parents didn’t attend college, but encouraged their sons to do so.
Soderholm didn’t know how to go about it, so one day he went to the recruitment center for John Tyler Community College with $790 in cash in his pocket and said “I want to go to college.”
“I still remember paying my first tuition with a wad of cash that I had withdrawn over multiple days because my ATM card had a cap,” Soderholm said.
He later transferred to Brigham Young University and graduated with an education degree, returning to teach at James River High School.
While in college, he thought about becoming a lawyer but the pull to teach was too strong.
“I found that most lawyers, especially earlier in their career, spend a lot of time just doing research for other lawyers,” Soderholm said. “I like working with people. I get energy from that.
“I like working with youth. I have a passion for it, I’ve seen the benefits of that in my own life. A lot of my volunteer service involved working with youth. I really enjoyed that aspect of things.”
Just a little under a month into his tenure at CCHS, Soderholm said he’s already been accepted with open arms.
“I’ve loved my time already here,” Soderholm said. “There’s an excitement, there’s a high degree of passion from the educators. I’ve told people there’s an ongoing hunger for success that I’ve seen.”
He calls Culpeper a “big small town,” pointing out the sense of community he felt the minute he moved here. He hopes to continue the high school’s legacy, and talked about the pride that parents have passed down to their children as they matriculate through CCHS.
Soderholm said he’s enjoyed meeting the teachers at the school and is excited to help bring passion to the school.
“I think I can bring energy,” Soderholm said. “We’ve discussed things that can stay the same and things that we can improve upon. One of the reasons I came to Culpeper is Dr. Brads. His leadership is inspiring and it’s solid. The fact that he has a plan that shows continued improvement is inspiring. It encourages me to work with my staff to find those ways to get better.”
Soderholm said he has met with some student leaders, but has been especially impressed by SCA President Olivia Son. The two met to brainstorm ideas for pep rallies and homecoming spirit week and her enthusiasm and leadership impressed the new head of CCHS.
“She is particularly impressive, to see her leadership and to bring in other students to help contribute to plan for our freshman orientation,” Soderholm said. “She’s only one, but as the SCA president that’s special that a 17-year-old would want to take on that role and can be counted on.”
Soderholm is also looking forward to working the career and technical education department, as he will supervise the group this year.
“I have a great passion for that,” Soderholm said. “There are so many opportunities for our students, I think that’s important to be a part of. That’s something I want to have my hands in.”
He also praised the JROTC program, which will be led by First Sgt. Tom Hamilton this year.
“The success we’ve had with our students being recognized on the national level – this summer alone we’ve had students recognized in Missouri, at Randolph Macon Academy and at Florida,” Soderholm said. “One of our young ladies win first place in the national fitness award.”
Soderholm referenced Ron Clark’s book “Move Your Bus” when talking about his plans for CCHS.
“If you think of your bus as being Flintstone powered, so everyone is powering it with their feet,” Soderholm said. “We have runners, walkers, joggers and riders. Everyone is somewhere on that spectrum. There are those people who are consistently our runners, they are always the strongest part of moving our school forward. When they come with new ideas and give students new opportunities, it’s my job to steer the bus in a way to allow that to happen.”
Soderholm, 38, is married to Brooke and they have four children who will be attending Culpeper County Public Schools.
“I’m really excited to be just here in general, I look forward to being a part of the Blue Devil family,” Soderholm said.