NEW AUBURN, Wis. — In a situation that can be difficult to control, Colton Lunemann of New Auburn never wavered.
With a medical condition that tries to isolate, Lunemann wouldn't allow himself to be alone.
The New Auburn High School senior has overcome a childhood diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome to become one of the most active and outgoing students in his class, participating in a variety of extracurricular activities while handling a condition that can make those public situations tough to handle, the Chippewa Herald (http://bit.ly/1Qk4dFz ) reported.
This spring, Lunemann will walk at his senior graduation as his class' salutatorian. The senior has come a long a long way and thanks to the support of his family, classmates and teachers, shows no signs of slowing down.
Lunemann is New Auburn High School's 2016 recipient of Chippewa Valley Newspapers' Extra Effort award.
He was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome as a youngster. Asperger's is a pervasive development disorder that delays the development of certain skills, most notably social skills, communication skills and imagination skills. Often times, children with Asperger's have difficulty forging friendships and relationships, especially as they grow older.
"With Asperger's, my biggest problem was when I was very young," Lunemann said. "My mom said I wouldn't really speak any words until I was 3 years old."
Lunemann and his family attacked Colton's condition head-on, not allowing him to isolate himself.
"Being around people like them I think is what helped me the most," Lunemann said of his family. "They were supportive of me and did help me and I really learned more from them than anybody else."
Lunemann joined the Cub Scouts in the first grade, an organization that weaved his love of being outdoors into social interaction. He stayed involved with the organization and later earned the coveted title of Eagle Scout. He has also become involved with the Future Farmers of America, National Honor Society, student council, and competed athletically in cross country.
"I think being active in all these groups really does help you cope with having Asperger's," Lunemann said. "It's forced-upon communication and I think that's one of the best ways you can learn. You just learn by doing stuff."
Lunemann hasn't just participated in those organizations, he has thrived. He earned a silver medal in the state FFA agriscience competition in the Animal Systems category. He also has performed with the organization's state band as an alto saxophonist, playing at the state FFA convention as well as at the Wisconsin State Fair.
"I really admire him for his efforts and for what he does to represent our school and community," said New Auburn High School agriculture teacher Brenda Scheil.
Lunemann's love for the outdoors can be seen in the organizations he is involved with, as well as with his intended path of secondary education. He plans on attending college and studying Actuary Science, a rapidly-growing field that applies math and statistical methods to access risks for insurance, finance and a variety of other industries and fields.
"Actuary Science, from what I've learned so far, has a wide variety of things you can possibly do," Lunemann said. "You can work for insurance companies; you can work with the government and do more environmental things. That's something I'm interested in getting into. There's a large field you can get into and I think it would be the best place for me to go right now."
"Colton values education and what I like about Colton is he always has a goal on the horizon and is willing to work towards it and achieve it," Scheil said.
After his Asperger's diagnosis, Lunemann was introduced to a book by a speech therapist that showed children diagnosed with Asperger's the importance of finding themselves and discovering what type of person they are.
As Lunemann closes in on graduation with a bright future ahead, he has done just that. He's conquered a condition that preys on social vulnerability and has become an outgoing, productive member of his community.
As he closes in on the next stage of his life, those around him have noticed the gains he has made. And the success that can come with it.
"He recognizes the talents he has and he wants to share them with the world," Scheil said. "He's going to be successful just for that ability to want to share his talents."
This is an AP Member Exchange shared by The Chippewa Herald