Positive People: Amherst Class of 2014

By: Kristen Guilfoos Email
By: Kristen Guilfoos Email

This week in our Positive People segment, we're recognizing the Amherst High School Class of 2014.

As you watch the classmates shoot hoops in their school gym, Brian Chojnacki blends in with the crowd, no different than the others.

"It's great to be his friend," says Jamie Docka.

"He's been a part of my life since we were in 1st grade and we've been close ever since," adds Jaimee Pitt.

In some ways this high school senior isn't any different, but in one big way, he is. Brian is autistic.

Brian's aunt, Katina Warner, says, "Communication. Sometimes he's doesn't get the necessary cues that the normal person does. That's hard for Brian. If he doesn't communicate something quite right, they don't make fun of him. They just accept it."

That's why she nominated the Amherst High School Class of 2014 as Positive People, all 57 of them.

Warner says, "When I see on the news, the reports of bullying, I look at this class and think, they're the opposite of bullying. They embrace Brian. They support him. They've always included him. They've never made him feel any different. Whether it's on the football field, or the lunch table. They never leave him out of anything they do."

And when we asked his classmates why they go out of their way to include Brian, they didn't skip a beat before answering.

Trenton Piotrowski says, "Really why wouldn't you? He's just one of us. We don't treat him any different. He hangs out with us. Brian Chojnacki. He plays on the football team. He's our teammate."

Their actions are not lost on Brian. Even though he has a hard time speaking, he wants to make sure his friends know how he feels about them.

Brian says, "Without them i would have nobody to be with. These classmates. Thanking them for taking care of me."

He's not the only one who expressing gratitude though. The other seniors say they owe him a big thank you as well, for all he's taught them.

Jaimee Pitt says, "He's also taught me to be patient and kind. He's always very caring, it goes both ways. He's kind to me, so I've learned to be kind to others. He's just taught me to be a better person."

Brian isn't a bad guy to have around in history class either. He's a bit of whiz kid when it comes to the US Presidents.

His football coach, Mark Lusic, says, "you can ask him who James Madison was married to and what year, and he gets it. It's amazing."

Trenton Piotrowski says, "I'm speechless when it comes to him an his Presidents. He can name them backwards, frontwards. He reads books on them. You'll see him with a book and he just throws out facts."

For now though, he's throwing balls instead, playing basketball, which just happens to be President Obama's favorite pastime as well, but Brian probably already knows that.

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