Local Students Reach New Heights

Local Students Reach New Heights

- in Education, Education/Schools

Northeast Ohio students have shown strength and overcome challenges.

These students, running the gamut from preschool to high school graduates, are just a few out of hundreds who have overcome challenges this school year. Parents and schools shared the following students’ stories of continued strength in triumphing over adversity and their pathways to success.


Leonard-Sarah_BC9A1120Sarah Leonard, Lawrence School, Sagamore Hills, Senior

It has been an extraordinary journey for Sarah, who will be attending High Point University next fall. While learning how to manage her attention deficit disorder, this once shy girl became a four-time class president, a National Honor Society honoree, excelled in numerous musical and theatrical roles on the stage, and was accepted to each college she applied to with scholarship offers.


collin from medina high school - CopyCollin Kiousis, Medina High School, Medina, Senior

Collin is a very active senior at Medina High School. He plays the string bass in the orchestra, is a member of the Encore crew, has run cross country, played soccer and lacrosse. However, last fall, his life changed dramatically when he was diagnosed with pseudomyxoma peritonei carcinoma/colon cancer. His supporters organized a 5K and 1-Mile Run to Fight Cancer in November 2014 and his fellow students continue to support him. Collin continues his fight and the battling Bees of Medina will be with him every step of the way. Collin’s ultimate goal is for no one else to be dealt the hand that he has been dealt.


Randy McMullenRandy McMullen, Theodore Roosevelt High School, Kent, Senior

Randy, who was born with spina bifida, is a fifth year player for the Achievement Centers for Children Junior Wheelchair Cavaliers Basketball team, and was recently honored as a graduating senior. He was awarded his varsity basketball pin at an exhibition game at Kent Roosevelt High School playing against fellow students and staff.

Randy’s father, Tom, says, “The socialization skills and camaraderie with his teammates, along with the support and encouragement from his Wheelchair Cavs coaches, has been so important for Randy.”

Randy is the champion and current record holder for the state of Ohio in Wheelchair Shot Put, and is training to qualify for the U.S. team for the Parapan Games, which will be held in Toronto in August.


Zayne Hammoudeh edit


Zayne Hammoudeh, Greenwood Early Learning Center (Green Local Schools), preschooler

Zayne, 5, had a different preschool experience than his peers. He was born with an orthopedic condition called pelvic femoral focal deficiency, which primarily affects the bones of  his pelvis and legs.

At preschool, Zayne’s main goal was to learn to walk, all while progressing in his academics. He underwent a painful surgery and, yet, 19 days after the procedure, he begged to go back to preschool. He re-entered his classroom in a wheelchair. He progressed in therapy from walker to crutches to free walking again. Zayne is a class leader and a role model. He has joined gymnastics and may someday compete on a Special Olympics gymnastics team. He will enter kindergarten next fall without the need of an adult to assist his mobility in the classrooms or hallways.


iyler the music settlementAbhibav IyerThe Music Settlement, pre-kindergarten class

Abhi participated in the Pre-K Preschool program, enrolling as a partnership with Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Center for Autism.

Abhi has transitioned into a typical classroom, making social connections and academic strides that merit notice. He is very proud of his growth and achievements this year, as are his parents and teachers.

He will turn 5 years old this summer and will attend the full-day kindergarten class in the fall, without support programming from Lerner.


dani taraba great kid addition photo copyDani Taraba, Burton Elementary School, Geauga, second grade

Dani, who has Down syndrome, is smart, independent and athletic. This was a breakthrough year for her. She is in a classroom with her peers and has an attentive aide, but Dani is fiercely independent and wants to do things on her own. One of her favorite phrases is, “I can do this,” — and she does. Dani had surgery on both feet this school year. Doctors predicted she’d need a wheelchair for three months. After six weeks she was back on her feet. This summer, Dani is training for the Special Olympics and plans to compete as a swimmer. Next fall, she’ll be a cheerleader for the youth football team. She has big goals and has every intention of achieving them.


tony daher mentor memorial middleTony Daher, Memorial Middle School, Mentor, seventh grade

Tony was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder that affects bone marrow. He received a successful cord blood transplant from a child on a national registry — an almost perfect match, said his mother. He has been homeschooled this year, but will be returning to Memorial Middle School in the fall as an eighth grader. Tony loves to play basketball and is building up his strength to return to the court. He also is a big Cavaliers fan and hopes to someday meet his favorite player, LeBron James. He made that special request through the Make a Wish Foundation.


billiart and mark harveyJoey Harvey, Julie Billiart School, Lyndhurst, eighth grade

Joey, a student on the autism spectrum, has used his organizational tools to help him succeed this year. His planner helps him keep track of homework assignments and organize the materials that he needs to take home each evening; as a result, he has become more independent.

Through persistence, hard work with his reading teacher and the use of electronic books, Joey achieved his independent reading goal in the third quarter, a big accomplishment that he had not met the previous quarters.

Joey reads frequently at school, but really struggles to understand what he reads. He had fallen into a pattern of taking quizzes and not passing them and felt defeated as a reader. Many teachers worked  with Joey to come up with a strategy of reading shorter electronic books to chip away at his reading points and make steady progress each week so that he could achieve success.

Joey earned 4th place overall out of 20 participants in the Geo Bee, in which he has been a participant each year since fifth grade, when he became eligible.

He has worked hard and will be attending Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School in the fall. He is kind and has a great sense of humor.


mason.C1 Mason Clutter, Ohio Virtual Academy, Senior

Mason Clutter, a member of the Ohio Virtual Academy Class of 2015 and an OHVA student since fifth grade, received his associate degree from Columbus State Community College approximately one month prior to receiving his high school diploma from OHVA. By taking a few high school classes during eighth  grade and attending Ohio’s Post-Secondary Enrollment and College Credit Plus programs, Mason balanced college courses alongside his remaining OHVA high school classes.

“Mason has been driven by his goal of becoming a doctor since he was a sophomore at OHVA,” says his mother, Shanna Cote. “We watched him create an ambitious plan and go on to earn a 4.0 college GPA for two straight semesters while still in his senior year of high school. Our family is so proud of Mason’s accomplishments, and now two of his younger siblings are embarking on a similar path at OHVA — earning college credit while completing high school.”

He received a scholarship to Hillsdale College in Michigan, where he will continue his education in the Fall.


johnny ania grand river academyJohnny Ania, Grand River Academy, Austinburg, a college prep boarding school, junior

From the first day he came to campus eight months ago — nervous and unsure — Johnny has taken advantage of the structure, support and activities afforded to him. Johnny has made the Headmaster’s List (High Honor Roll), gotten frequent nominations for and has been elected student of the week numerous times, has completed an internship in his chosen area of interest, has qualified for the county leadership program for next year, is a member of the National Quiz Team and Botany Team, is an admissions ambassador, and helps with the Grand River Academy’s community STEAM days. Johnny entered the school with a GPA of 2.3, but this year earned a perfect 4.0. He admits that although leaving home was hard, he feels proud of his accomplishments and knows this sacrifice has changed his life. Johnny has come out of his shell and has realized his potential. He has become more of a self-advocate and is much more confident.



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