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“Normal” Kid Graduates From BHS

<p><strong>Reflections.</strong> Josh Vandevender holds a microphone for Caleb Johnson so he had read a speech during Class Night last Tuesday. Johnson, who has Muscular Dystrophy, graduated from Booneville High School Thursday.</p>

Reflections. Josh Vandevender holds a microphone for Caleb Johnson so he had read a speech during Class Night last Tuesday. Johnson, who has Muscular Dystrophy, graduated from Booneville High School Thursday.

As with any group of graduates the Booneville High School Class of 2014 has as many unique stories as there are cap and gown sets.

There are students going to college, others preparing to leave for the military service and others are on their way to adulthood via parenthood. While each has a level of individuality, it is also, comparatively speaking, pretty normal.

Normal is exactly how 2014 BHS graduate Caleb Johnson said he wants to be viewed, and pretty much how he has been viewed since being diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy during his second grade year.

For the most part that hasn’t been an issue for Caleb, who lives with his grandparents, Kathy and Glendel Johnson, his father Shan Johnson, and his dog Sonny.

“They’ve been a great help if I’ve needed something picked up or out of my backpack,” says the now 18-year old Caleb. “I never felt any different. I felt like a normal kid.”

“When he was littler and still walking and having trouble he would tell people, ‘I fall down a lot but I’m still just a normal kid,’” said Kathy Johnson, Caleb’s grandmother.

His classmates — he counts Brandon Wolski and Josh Van Deveder among his friends — even voted Johnson the Mr. Congeniality award which was presented during Class Night last Tuesday and asked him to fill a speaking part of the program.

Caleb sat beside Woslki and VanDevender held the microphone for his speech.

Although he also picked up awards in English, math and reading during the same event, Johnson said his favorite classes were actually in agri.

“There wasn’t a whole lot I could do but I did what I could,” he said of being in the classes.

Caleb was also normal in that he participated in clubs and extracurricular activities. He was in FFA and the Library Club this year and has previously been in FBLA and Student Council member. As a club member he also had to make trips with other students, like to the Arkansas State Fair in Fort Smith with the FFA.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” said Kathy. “The school has been very good to him.”

Caleb completed his work with a pencil, when he could, but if his hand got too tired – he lost most of the use of his arms about 18 months ago – an aide, Debby Terry, transcribed for him.

“She has been so good to him,” said Kathy. “She did things she didn’t have to.”

For the most part Caleb rode a bus to school each day. That is he did so after a two-hour process of getting ready and getting into his 411 pound wheelchair.

Now graduated, Caleb says “I’ve thought about doing some online classes. I’m not going to go to college somewhere. It’s a lot easier to do from my computer.”

A company out of Alma is helping get Caleb set up for that project. Caleb was announced as a recipient of the Go Opportunities scholarship and an Arkansas Rehabilitation scholarship. Caleb hasn’t set on a major.

Caleb is also like many other kids in that he likes video games – the Playstation 3 is a favorite possession – and has interests like wrestling and has met superstars like Hacksaw Jim Duggan.

Of course there are things that aren’t exactly normal with Caleb, though perfectly normal for his condition. He has also been granted a request from the Make A Wish Foundation and has been chosen as a MDA Ambassador.

Also, in addition to the gaming system his room is home to a breathing machine, a cough assist machine and another he must use when he has a cold.

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