College grad shows how ADHD didn’t slow him down

CSU honors Centennial’s Josh Horner for broad range of accomplishments


Josh Horner did not let his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder stop him from learning two new languages, living in two foreign countries, leading his college choir section and writing a book.

Because of those accomplishments over his 4 1/2 years at Colorado State University, the Centennial resident was honored as the College of Liberal Arts’ outstanding graduate.

“I think the most compelling thing was how he was able to overcome ADHD and still do so well in school,” CSU communications coordinator Jeff Dodge said. “It sounds like it was a positive for him in the sense that it drove him to travel and see parts of the world he would not have otherwise seen.”

Every semester, CSU honors a representative from each of its eight colleges as an outstanding graduate. They are nominated by professors and department heads. More than 2,000 students graduated from CSU in December.

For Horner, who was born in Littleton and lived in Parker before moving to Centennial, the honor was unexpected.

“I didn’t think I was qualified for it, but I decided I’d take it,” Horner said.

Dealing with ADHD

An international studies and Spanish major, one of Horner’s main challenges was completing reading assignments because ADHD makes it difficult to maintain focus.

“I think ADHD is often very misunderstood and it is turned into a joke,” Horner said. “It can take a great toll on your self-esteem when school systems are built on the premise of evaluating you with a grade. People with ADHD feel like failures.”

It wasn’t until college that Horner truly understood his ADHD and learned how to complete school work effectively. He developed strategies to help him stay focused, such as writing notes for a history class in Spanish or leaving a classroom when he could feel his attention wandering.

“The amount of information I learned having left the class is greater than the amount I would have lost just spacing out and missing it,” he said.

Horner called all the distractions noise.

“The noise is essentially a number of symptoms of ADHD which make you constantly focused on outside stimuli,” Horner said. “You can have four seperate things going in your head at once and it can be very tiring, especially when you are trying to focus in class or trying to focus on a reading assignment.”

But he still graduated with a 3.6 GPA.

Pursuing his passions

Horner discovered music his freshman year when a friend asked him to join her for a choir rehearsal.

“I had never been in a choir and never read a piece of music before,” he said.

Horner was so impressed with the experience he remained in choir for the rest of his undergraduate career. After two years, he was the section leader for the tenor section.

Leaving the choir behind, he said, was the hardest part about graduating.

Horner studied abroad twice, first in Argentina and then in Japan, learning both Spanish and Japanese before traveling there.

“When you learn a foreign language, the most important skill you take away is the ability to learn language,” Horner said. “When I was learning Spanish, I was learning to deconstruct my own language and take in another. When I joined Japanese class, that skill took me to the top of the class.”

His favorite memories in Japan were conversations had with his host mother, who did not speak “a lick of English,” while sitting arounda traditional Chinese table that had a heater beneath it.

And for his final school project, Horner used his experiences with ADHD and travel to write a 53-page book titled “Noise.”

“I decided to write my book on something different,” Horner said. “Sometimes travel is a form of escapism. What if you travel to escape something as opposed to travel to broaden your horizons? Because my ADHD can cause me so many issues when I am stagnant and still for too long, when I moved abroad it was a fresh start.”

Horner is excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.

“I want to be a jack of all trades,” he said. “I want to make orchestral scores, record comedy songs, make a video game and create art. I am not content with being trilingual — I want to learn more languages.”

Because of his struggles in school, Horner wants to one day try teaching. And he recently applied to a program to teach English in Japan.

“I want to work somewhere I can make a difference,” Horner said. “Growing up and doubting my potential for so long — it would be great to go into a classroom and find a kid who is like me to tell them that they are worth something.”


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