Mitch Groszek’s Pioneering Spirit
by Kelsey Luffman
This semester, MNU welcomes an exceptional pioneer to campus. Mitch Groszek is a freshman from Olathe, Kan., who loves wrestling and karate. Mitch also has Down’s syndrome, and his special needs make him unique among the broader student body.
Though it’s his first semester taking classes, Mitch is no stranger to the MNU campus. Mitch is a former member of ACCESS – an Olathe School District program that enables developmentally disabled students to extend their high school careers while developing their social, academic, and career skills. MNU connects with ACCESS by offering the campus as a meeting place for the program.
His parents, Olathe residents Mark and Pam Groszek, said Mitch became fully involved with the campus community during his time in ACCESS.
“He’s always considered MNU his college,” said Mark Groszek. “And it makes us comfortable knowing that the people here are trustworthy….we don’t worry about him.”
Now, MNU is Mitch’s college in more than name: with the help of an ACCESS transition specialist and MNU faculty, Mitch is enrolled in 14 audit hours.
Dr. Neil Friesland, professor of education, holds an Ed.D. in special education and serves as a liaison between ACCESS and the university. Now, Friesland also acts as Mitch’s academic advisor. Friesland said that after seeing how the campus has welcomed other ACCESS students, he believes Mitch will have plenty of encouragement during his transition to full-time enrollment.
“Often MNU students will sit at lunch with ACCESS students or take them to games,” said Friesland. “So now I am relying on the MNU community to help Mitch around if he needs anything.”
So far, said Mark and Pam Groszek, Mitch has been adjusting exceptionally well, as is characteristic of his adventurous spirit. One example of that spirit is his participation in a number of Special Olympic events, including basketball, golf, power lifting, soccer, and track. These experiences, his parents said, have helped him gain increasing independence, and in turn, enabled him to succeed in his various ambitions, including college.
“There’s a learning curve on both ends,” said Mark Groszek. “But he loves MNU – it’s what he wanted to do.”
Since MNU does not have a special education program, Mitch attends classes with the broader student body. Dr. Friesland is currently working to develop a customized two-year certificate program that will allow Mitch to participate in graduation.
To those on MNU’s campus and in the Olathe community who have not met Mitch yet, Mark Groszek wanted to say one thing.
“He’s just a regular kid. He’s just like anybody else,” said Mark. “Throughout his life we’ve had people tell us different things – ‘he can’t do this, he won’t do that.’ But you have to get to know him.”
Friesland agreed that Mitch is an inspiring example of the innovative spirit and can-do attitude that characterizes the MNU family.
“He is truly a pioneer here on campus,” said Friesland.
Since his arrival on campus, Mitch Groszek has become involved with all things MNU. Pictured here with the women's basketball team, Mitch has become a essential part of the team by serving as team manager. Mitch also stays involved in campus life by training for Special Olympics weightlifting with Whitney Rodden, head strength and conditioning coach, and singing in the Special Pops choir for developmentally disabled students with Mary Mays of the fine arts department.
To learn more about academic programs and special accommodations at MNU, visit www.mnu.edu/academics.