Aug 21, 2018

A proud moment

With a leadership medal around his neck, a shiny red gown over his suit and a tip of his graduation cap, Caleb Smith Plummer is beaming.

High school can be a trying experience for any teen, but Caleb carried burdens not shared by his classmates. So when he earned his diploma from Shroder High School this May, graduating with a 4.0 GPA and third in his class, it was an extra special moment.

 “It’s been incredible to see the growth he’s shown,” said Katherine Dooros, who was his HCDDS service and support administrator for several years. “To see what he accomplished—I’m really proud.”

Caleb, 17, has autism spectrum disorder, ADHD and several other medical conditions. Two months before his freshman year, his mom was hospitalized and then passed away from an unexpected illness.  “I was still going through a time of grieving and kept to myself, so I focused on my academics,” he said.

His focus on learning meant thriving in his classes, landing on the “A” honor roll every quarter and taking advanced placement (AP) math and English. His interest in technology led to an extracurricular computer camp and online coding classes.

“After his mom passed away, it was tough on the whole family,” said his aunt Lorna Smith, who took in Caleb and his younger sister after they lost their mom. “He was always smart, so I was never really worried about that.”

However, Caleb often experienced bouts of anxiety and had trouble connecting with his peers. He’d been part of support groups before, but his social challenges remained. His aunt encouraged him to try something new, and he worked with his teachers to create a social club at school. “I started it to make a lot more friends and make people feel more welcome,” Caleb said. Before graduating, his peers elected him to be the club’s activities coordinator and vice chairman.

“The majority of this would not happen without God. I had a lot of worries when I lost my mom, but she takes care of us,” Caleb said, reaching across the table to squeeze his aunt’s hand. “Some people would not be so compassionate or considerate to take in two kids who are not their own, and we’re blessed to have her with us.”

Caleb enrolled in the University of Cincinnati, where he’ll be working toward a bachelor’s degree in information technology. He’s excited about college and a little nervous. “I’ll be trying to adjust to college life, like most freshman,” he said. Fall classes begin Aug. 27, less than a week after his 18th birthday.

After graduating, he hopes to turn his passion for video games into a career and develop his own games one day. “He’s so well-rounded, smart, kind and resilient,” Dooros said. “No doubt whatever he does, he will be successful.”
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