It's always difficult for a student to make a difference in a new school.
Try doing that in a different country.
For Erie Otters defenseman Justin Felker and fellow members of his draft class, it's an adjustment that can be very difficult to make.
"It's much different," Felker said. "In some areas, the U.S. is ahead of Canada and in other areas, Canada is ahead. There's a lot to catch up on, especially in math, where I thought it was really hard to catch up."
A straight-A student from Ontario, Felker came into the United States with a high degree of success in academics. He expected some change in adjusting to a new school system, but was not sure what to expect when enrolling at McDowell High School.
"I hadn't heard much about what goes on in the American education system," Felker said. "I tried hard to prepare for my transistion."
Felker's focus and determination helped earn the rookie defenseman great marks in his first semester at McDowell, and OHL Academic Player of the Month honors for December in the Midwest Division.
In his first semsester of junior year, Felker took several math and science courses, including an honors level mathematics class. His teachers commented that he is a pleasure to have in class and described him as an enthusiastic learner.
The recognition was something Felker was hoping to shoot for as one of his goals in his rookie season.
"It's a big honor," Felker said. "I had heard Adam Pelech won it last season and it was something I wanted to strive for. I just had to make sure I kept my marks up and stay focused."
Staying focused in school can be difficult, especially when you juggle other activities at once. Felker attended regular practices, went on road trips and played games until an upper-body injury sidelined him in mid-December.
Trying to balance practice, school and working out can be a difficult task, but time management is a key stage in maturity and development.
"Playing hockey, going to school and working out all at once can be tough sometimes," Felker said. "I just take it one day at a time and make sure I do all the little things right."