Graduation has special meaning for twins, family

Many people have helped LaBerges deal with autism
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When Matthew and Mitchell LaBerge were diagnosed with autism 15 years ago, no one knew much about the disorder or what the identical twins would be able to accomplish in life.

Friday, they will reach a milestone, which some might have thought unreachable, when they cross the stage with their fellow graduates from the Bonduel High School Class of 2015 to receive their diplomas.

Dave LaBerge, the twins’ father, acknowledged it was not an easy journey for the twins or their family, which includes mom Julie — the pupil service director, and her husband, the network director in the Bonduel School District — and 13-year-old Jessica, especially at the beginning.

“Social interactions with peers were always a struggle and something that they really needed assistance with,” he said. “At that time we knew very little about what (autism) was and what we should be doing.”

As autism-related education and services improved, so did the twins’ chances of overcoming their obstacles. Dave LaBerge credited the help of multiple agencies, the school district and a supportive Bonduel community with helping the twins continue to grow.

“There are so many people that have contributed to the success of Matt and Mitch, and we will forever be grateful for that,” he said.

The twins underwent several years of occupational therapy. They forced themselves to become active in the school’s clubs and activities.

Over the last four years, they have been involved in student council, Future Business Leaders of America, audiovisual projects involving the football and basketball teams and the school newspaper. Both played on the varsity golf team.

Mitchell said golf motivated him to seek success beyond the course and in the classroom.

“The weather is beautiful and I get to know people from other schools, and it helped me work hard in school all four years,” Mitchell said. “It has been a great school for me and I made a lot of great friends along the way.”

The twins agreed it was not always easy.

“I just kept working hard every day and kept a positive attitude,” Mitchell said.

“Keep fighting every day and get through it, and stay positive, and get better,” Matthew said.

They shared their experiences and discussed autism on a website they created as a FBLA project.

“The overall perseverance and dedication they have shown through this process has been the thing that I find most impressive,” Dave LaBerge said. “They have taught us what it really is like to struggle and continue to try day after day, no matter what.”

Their journey will continue when they attend Northeast Wisconsin Technical College to study web marketing, graphic design or another facet of information technology.

Leading the Class of 2015 at graduation will be valedictorian Danny Tauchen and salutatorian Deanna Zernicke. Tauchen plans to attend Michigan Technological University to study engineering. Zernicke will study pre-law and economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: Bonduel High School commencement ceremony

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday

WHERE: BHS gymnasium, 400 W. Green Bay St., Bonduel

CLASS MOTTO: “Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.”

CLASS FLOWER: Crazy Daisies

WHO: The 80 graduation candidates are Zachary Acker, Whitney Banker**, Joshua Basten, Jacob Bennin, Hunter Berry, Jared Beschta, Kaitlin Bessette, Kayla Beyersdorf*, Alexandra Brandt, Courtney Brede, Sarah Chmielewski, Erin Dayton, Taylor Diemel, Colton Dobratz, Jennifer Dowden*, Kaitlyn Duhm**, Sara Ebert, April Factor, Samuel Falck**, Raquel Fasbinder, Lillian Gloede, Isaiah Griesbach, Shane Hancock, Nelson Hendrickson, Nathaniel Hudson, Samantha Inman*, Kraig Jashinsky*, Kevin Jensen, Megan Kelley, Jenna Kerkhoff**, Ruhina Khudodod, Bailee Kraning, Samuel Kroening, Jenifer Krull, Savanna Krull, Matthew LaBerge, Mitchell LaBerge, Holly Lammers, Joseph Lazzara, Ayla Leisgang, Shawnna Lenz, Austin Marcks, Mikayla Maroszek**, Race McClone**, Tanner Mews, Robert Miller, Joshua Moede, Brandon Novitski, Steven Olson, David Parrott, Morgan Pennings**, Alan Rasmussen, Martina Reichwald, Alexa Reinke*, Jordan Richter, Garret Riemer, Lysann Riska, Katlynn Robaidek, Aneta Rohloff, Benjamin Rohloff, Katelyn Rohr*, Connor Rosin, Tamara Rottier**, Jordan Rouse, Kirsten Rynish, Elizabeth Schaal**, Samantha Schaal**, Austin Siolka, Mitchell Sokolski, Jacob Springborn, Daniel Tauchen*, Patrick Thiel, Hunter VanderLinden, Robert VanRite, James Watry**, Travis Wollenberg, Kaila Wussow**, Katie Zander, Deanna Zernicke*, Hannah Zernicke**

(*- top 10 percent; ** - top 20 percent)