Like most Homewood-Flossmoor High School seniors, Gabriel Temple will soon make a decision on which college to attend. It’s got to offer a good financial package and a strong program for his major in graphic design.
His family’s also looking for a school with exceptional facilities and an understanding staff to make Gabriel’s transition easier as he deals with his Duchenne muscular dystrophy (MD).
Over his four years at H-F, Gabriel has tried his best to do things for himself before he has to ask for assistance. He is still reserved, but not as shy as he once was.
Gabriel, of Flossmoor, will graduate in May from H-F and knows the next step in his life will mean big changes. He’s “about 65 percent” ready, he says with a grin.
Gabriel is confined to a wheelchair because the MD weakened muscles in his hips, pelvic area, thighs, shoulders and arms. He was able to walk with a walker until about age 9 when he moved to a manual wheelchair. As the disease progressed, he moved to an electric wheelchair.
Today his team of doctors includes a neurologist, orthopedist, pulmonologist and cardiologist.
Without muscle strength, Gabriel developed scoliosis and was very slumped over. His grandmother, Doris Temple, said he came through surgery in summer 2015 “like a champ” after doctors put two rods and 32 screws in his back so he would sit up straight.
He lost some ability to raise his arms, but he can look you in the eye now. A belt around his middle secures him in the wheelchair, especially for travels along the path between H-F’s north and south buildings.
When the bus drops him off at H-F at 8:15 a.m., Gabriel is met by Ryan Kopp, an H-F paraprofessional aide, who has been with him the past three years assisting with his physical needs. They have developed a strong bond that Gabriel’s counselor, Karen Olson, says has helped Gabriel develop his true personality and be part of H-F.
Kopp convinced Gabriel’s grandmother that Gabriel needed to go to homecoming, sporting events and Operation Snowball. Being at events and having lunch in the cafeteria helped students get to know him. Now he is greeted in the hallways and feels he has made friends, especially his buddy Paris Melton who also will graduate from H-F.
In the classroom, it’s all Gabriel’s work. He has filled the required six periods with honors and advanced placement (AP) classes maintaining a 3.3 grade point average. Each quarter of his senior year he’s been on the honor roll.
AP Economics teacher Nick Anello nominated him “Student of the Quarter” recognizing him “because he was able to earn a good grade despite having to miss many classes for doctors appointments and health problems.
“It has been an honor to teach a young man with such conviction and fortitude. It reminds me how grateful I should be for the luxuries in my own life.”