Moose Jaw high school student perseveres through many obstacles toward graduation

A Regina student with autism reflects on his time as he persevered through high school during the COVID-19 pandemic and the teachers job action. Global Regina

One Moose Jaw student is pushing through obstacles to reach his goal of completing high school.

Stephen Walcer, who started high school during the COVID-19 pandemic, said the milestone means a little more for him.

“It made it incredibly difficult because that’s one of the best parts of coming to school, is just seeing all the people you care about and being able to socialize with them and learn together and just speak together and have conversations and then do assignments,” said Walcer, who attends Vanier Collegiate.

Walcer finished Grade 8 in 2020. He said he had been looking forward to having the full high school experience but due to restrictions, it did not happen. Starting high school during the pandemic was not easy for Walcer as classes were offered online. For him, it wasn’t the same as learning in person.

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“You just didn’t get that connection,” he said. “You didn’t have people who would sit beside you. You would get your assignments and you (would) have to do them by yourself. You don’t have your teacher around to help and you couldn’t ask them questions.”

Things slowly returned to normal when he reached Grade 10 after all the restrictions were lifted. But that only lasted so long. Walcer’s final year of high school was altered by teacher job action, where class time was cut along with extracurriculars.

Walcer’s mother, Laurie Ewen, hoped her son would have a great experience in high school but acknowledged the roadblocks he endured.

Walcer was diagnosed with autism 10 years ago. In school, he is accompanied by a service dog that helps him during potential escalation moments.

“Companionship is very important because he was struggling with making friends in elementary school,” she said. “It does tend to bring people closer to ask about the (service) dog. Friendships can build because there’s something common, they can talk about.”

“Walkouts and having sports pulled back affects quality,” she said.

Ewen said despite the challenges her son endured in his years in high school, she is proud of the steps he has made to reach his goal of finishing school and moving on to university in the fall to study engineering.

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“I am so proud of him. We’ve always tried to tell him, stand up for yourself,” she said. “I live with the thought in my mind (that) every day is an adventure. … Try to live life every day on the edge of your seat. To know that he’s taking some of that with him, I’m just so proud of him.”

— with files from Moosa Imran

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