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Pioneering Student is Example for All

Pioneering Student is Example for All

By Carol Best
April 22, 2014

Update to the story originally published Nov. 28, 2012. To read the original article, "Pioneering Student Makes MNU "His College," click here.

Two years ago when Mitch Groszek told his parents he wanted to attend MidAmerica Nazarene University they weren’t sure what to do. Mitch has Down syndrome, and while he had completed high school as well as the Olathe School District’s Access on Campus program at MNU, they were concerned about disappointing him. He had long called MNU “his college.”

Dr. Neil Friesland, professor of education, an expert in special education, had an idea. Mitch could audit classes for personal enrichment. At first Friesland and other MNU personnel wondered how much assistance Mitch would need. Could he stay on schedule by himself and would he remember how to maneuver around campus? Their concerns were unfounded. Mitch called Friesland each morning to say he was on campus and became adept at finding his classes and staying on schedule.

He became well-known on campus, taking on the job of manager of the women’s basketball team. The team loves him, and for his “graduation” gave him a signed team jersey with the number one, because as their coach Jon Lewis said, “Mitch is their number one fan.”

Today Mitch received a special certificate of achievement at community chapel from MNU President David Spittal. It reads, Certificate of Achievement: Two years of Health and Wellness Experience. Mitch received more than one standing ovation at the ceremony and was surrounded by friends as Chaplain Randy Beckum prayed a blessing over him.

Friesland says the heroes of this story, besides Mitch himself, are Pam and Mark Groszek, Mitch’s parents.

“They’ve advocated for him all along,” Friesland says. “Mitch is where he is today because they believed in him.”

Students, faculty and staff all over MNU have found Mitch’s can-do attitude and ready smile an encouragement. Many of them gathered to wish him well at a reception following the ceremony.

“I don’t know what I will do without you,” Mitch told staff in the School of Education. But those of us who’ve know Mitch know that he will continue to do much more than expected. He’s proven it. He’s a true Pioneer! 

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