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Dawson Wojciehowski is one standout guy

by Jeff Olsen

In the final week of classes for the 2024 Roseau High School seniors, Guidance Counselor Dan Urness didn't hesitate when asked which senior stands out the most.

Forget being all-everything hockey or a slam dunk in basketball.

"Dawson Wojciehowski," he said, adding that the young man just takes life in stride.

Never mind that he has been confined to an electric wheelchair during his entire education in Roseau.

"He's got a great attitude and is very smart. His greatest gift is his good nature, and he's a popular kid."

This past year, Dawson took college classes online.

"Just a neat kid," said Urness.

You can't fool the teachers.

They know the good eggs and the ones who make their classes worthwhile.

That's the viewpoint of Mr. Leif Eidsmoe, who knows his way around timber as a logger.

"Dawson is a heck of a kid, probably one of the funniest kids I've ever met. He's got a great sense of humor," said Leif.

Dawson took his wildlife management class, forestry class and biology class.

"A sharp kid. He doesn't let being in a wheelchair affect him at all. He wants to go outside and try every trail and get stuck. He's just a great kid."

Eidsmoe recalled the forestry class trip to Hayes Lake State Park in the cold and the snow.

"He did awesome and is great to have in class because he asks good questions, has good insight, and isn't afraid to crack a joke every once in a while."

Recently, Mandy Trangsrud mentioned what a privilege it has been being Dawson's para during his senior year.

"It was awesome. He has a sense of humor like no other," she said appreciatively.

"For a kid who doesn't get to do most of what the other kids do, he just really has a positive outlook on life."

Mandy assisted Dawson for two hours in the morning.

"He only goes a half day of school and then has college courses he is taking."

She added that next fall, he will attend Northland Community College in East Grand Forks.

"All around, Dawson is a great kid. He doesn't drive around in his chair feeling sorry for himself."

Not a chance!

Bryce Lingen, the Roseau elementary principal and the former assistant RHS principal during Dawson's sophomore and junior years, added why Dawson is such a treat.

"He just loves and appreciates life and is always so friendly. It's fun to see that."

He recalled that Dawson is a very good student.

"He's a hard worker and does whatever is needed to get done, which is really neat."

Mr. Lingen noted that Dawson will do some great things in his lifetime.

Meet the Parents

Dave and Gail Wojciehowski couldn't be prouder of their son.

"Dawson is 17 and was born with a form of muscular dystrophy," said Gail, adding that her son is quite a trooper.

"He's a very happy kid, easy to get along with, always has a smile on his face, and just goes with the flow."

Dave whispered to his wife who explained that, "Dave just said he's not like his daddy."

They laughed loudly.

Was he able to walk at all as a toddler?

"He started walking at a year and basically walked until he was 18-months-old."

Did you know the diagnosis?

"No, we didn't know, and we didn't actually find out until after he turned 18 months. He would walk along on his knees and they would buckle."

Every parent has high hopes.

"We thought that was kind of odd and we took Dawson to the doctor, who said that's not normal."

They were referred to a pediatrician in Grand Forks.

"They ran numerous tests and could not figure out what was wrong. So, they referred us to Mayo."

About a week later, they had the diagnosis - spinal muscular atrophy, a form of muscular dystrophy.

He's gone with the flow his entire life.

Are his arms pretty strong?

"Not really, but they're strong enough so he can play video games. That's all that matters," she said gleefully.

"He can feed himself, he can work on his computer, but his arms are not as strong as yours or mine."

Academically, Dawson has been doing both AP courses at school and post-secondary college courses online.

He plans to attend Northland Community College in East Grand Forks for architectural drafting.

It will be mom and son in East Grand Forks next fall.

It's called going the extra mile for Gail.

"He's not a problem. He's awesome!" laughed his mother, adding that Dawson is very good on a computer and loves drafting.

And he likes video games and jigsaw puzzles.

There are always challenges.

"He definitely has a very good attitude, and very rarely is he not happy."

Dawson Speaks

"I'm doing great," he said just days before graduation, adding that his good friends are classmates Ethan Watts and Cody Otto.

Once he earns his architectural drafting degree from Northland, Dawson mentioned his work preferences.

"I'm hoping to get an at-home job because then I can do whatever I want."

He laughed when it was suggested that one of the benefits of working from home is he won't have to brush his teeth.

This past Sunday, he graduated with the RHS Class of 2024 and was asked which of his teachers stand out.

"Mr. Eidsmoe is my favorite teacher."

He was asked if his life has been tough.

He shook that off like a major league catcher.

"No, it's been easy enough. I get by."

He laughs often.

How fast can your wheelchair go?

"Eight miles an hour."

Go pretty good in snow?

"I really get stuck in snow."

He likes basketball and game shows like "Family Feud" on TV.

And he's definitely ready for life's next challenges.

 

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