As a freshman at Bellefontaine High School four years ago, Jonathan Thornton set a goal that many students hope to achieve – to be selected as a member of the BHS National Honor Society. But Jonathan is not an average student. He is above average and he is autistic.
Jonathan explains what being autistic means to him, “It means your brain works differently than others. You’re still smart. But it’s harder to tell people about feelings and what you think.”
Even before he understood his diagnosis, Jonathan has always been clear about wanting to help others, explained his mother, Darlene Thornton.
“In elementary school, Jon was first to volunteer for the Buddy Club to eat lunch with kids who had autism. That was ironic.”
Since then his dedication to service has only grown.
“He wants to be part of every club, which has been good for him. He has been involved in more than any kid at BHS,” says his teacher, BHS intervention specialist Rick Reed.
Throughout high school, Jonathan has been active in service clubs like Agape, DARE, Interact, FCCLA and Red Cross Club. His involvement in show choir in elementary school also sparked a love of music and drama. As a result, Jonathan has been in 8 BHS plays as part of Drama Club, the production of “Our Town” at the Holland Theatre, taken 8 years of piano lessons and he’s had roles or was part of the chorus in the last four BHS musicals.
Overcoming an obstacle
When Jonathan applied to be considered for BHS National Honor Society during his junior year, Advisor JoAnne Aburto said he upheld all but one of the key pillars of the group, which are Scholarship, Service, Leadership and Character.
“The issue was his character. In all other areas he was doing a great job.”
When he was not “tapped” as a junior, Darlene said Jonathan was crushed. “He had his heart set on it and he didn’t make it. He was upset and he pleaded his case.”
Reed explained that autism-related sensory overload would sometimes lead Jonathan to lash out in class or put his hands on teachers when aggravated. The NHS selection committee challenged Jonathan to find better ways to channel his frustrations and then reapply his senior year.
Reed says the extra motivation has worked wonders. “He has had a really good year. I went to Mrs. Aburto and asked, is NHS still on the table?”
Aburto agreed that Jonathan had succeeded. “He has matured very much and he is aware that every action has a consequence.”
In mid-March, Jonathan’s friend Sierra Roberts entered Mr. Reed’s room to “tap” Jonathan. “I was excited and surprised!”
Jonathan was inducted in the BHS National Honor Society in a ceremony with several other students in early April, making his mother emotional. “I’m just so proud because he has worked so hard,” she said.
Achieving his goal of induction to the Bellefontaine High School Chapter of National Honor Society makes Jonathan a student to admire for kids of all abilities. Reed said, “That’s big for us in our unit to see!”
Jonathan says being “tapped” is his favorite memory of high school so far, but he has a big month ahead. Jonathan will join his classmates at graduation ceremonies on May 27. After that he will begin job training and job development skills at RTC Industries with aspirations to become a cook.
Submitted by the Logan County Board of DD.