Sunday, February 18, 2018
Education

From a child sick with Guillain-Barre syndrome to high school graduate

BROOKSVILLE — As he waits patiently to receive his diploma tonight from Nature Coast Technical High School, Lance LeDoux will be listening, along with the other 300 members of his graduating class, to speakers as they offer thoughts about facing the future with hope, courage and perseverance.

LeDoux will simply nod and smile to himself. That's because he knows well of what they speak.

Not that long ago, the 17-year-old couldn't have said that. But the sudden onset of a serious illness — and a long subsequent recuperation at a young age — made him realize that he would ultimately be in charge of his destiny.

"I learned that nothing can hold you down if you don't let it," LeDoux said this week. "If God has a plan for you, then you need to follow it to the end."

Ten years ago, LeDoux was about as normal a second-grader as anyone could imagine. He excelled in his schoolwork and was active in soccer, baseball and competitive kickboxing.

Then, one day early in the school year, LeDoux woke up feeling awful. He couldn't seem to get his legs under him. He hopped out of bed only to fall to the floor. His parents, Mary and Lance LeDoux, took him to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, where he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare disorder that affects the peripheral nervous system.

For the next few months, LeDoux was unable to walk or even hold objects. For a time, he was blind in one eye.

"At times it felt like I was trapped in my body," LeDoux recalled. "I was angry because I had no control of anything."

Although he eventually was able to return to Spring Hill Elementary, where his mother was assistant principal, LeDoux's struggles worsened. At that point in a wheelchair, he was often tormented by bullies out of sight of authorities.

After 18 months of physical therapy, LeDoux regained enough of his strength to begin thinking about sports again. But by the time he enrolled in sixth grade, his weight had risen above 300 pounds, mostly because of steroids that doctors prescribed to battle the lingering effects of Guillain-Barré.

"I wanted to play football so bad," LeDoux said, "but I just wasn't in good enough shape yet."

During LeDoux's middle school years, former Nature Coast football coach Jamie Joyner worked with him to help him to trim down to an ideal playing weight. Two years later, LeDoux joined Nature Coast's junior varsity program, where excelled as an offensive lineman.

This school year, Nature Coast head coach Charles Liggett nominated LeDoux for the national High School Rudy Award, which is given to athletes who demonstrate exemplary character, courage and commitment to their teams.

Next fall, LeDoux will enroll in business school at Bethel College in North Newton, Kan., on a partial football scholarship. He hopes one day to become a cruise ship captain.

Looking back at all he has endured, LeDoux is happy to be able to impart some lessons to others. He is a volunteer tutor for exceptional education students at Brooksville Elementary, where his mother is now the principal. He often comes across youngsters who are frustrated and ready to give up.

LeDoux tells them not to.

"A lot of times it's just a matter of getting them to believe in themselves," he said. "In the end, that's what life really comes down to."

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]

Comments
Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

TAMPA — "Elevate," a Hillsborough County School District initiative that was to focus on seven troubled schools and use them as models for dozens more, is becoming but a memory as the district seeks instead to support all schools equally."We’re more ...
Published: 02/17/18
Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

TAMPA — Students at Plant High School honored the victims of the Parkland school shooting with a series of sidewalk chalk messages.The chalk art carried a series of messages such as "How many times?" and "Do something. Protect us." according to a Fac...
Published: 02/16/18
At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

While fielding calls from anxious parents after the Broward County high school shooting that claimed 17 lives, school officials in the Tampa Bay area took a close look Thursday at what they are doing to keep students safe.There are gates and locks an...
Published: 02/15/18
Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Assuming April Griffin follows through on her decision not to seek re-election to the Hillsborough County School Board, well, meetings just won’t be the same. Chances are they’ll just be filled with boring reports, proclamations and routine business....
Published: 02/15/18
‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

A St. Petersburg High teacher has retired in the middle of the school year after students said he called them "baby," "babe," "missy," "honey," "sweetie," "little girl" and ended one girl’s name with "-licious."The Pinellas County school district fou...
Published: 02/15/18
Interim principal says teamwork will lift long-struggling Moton Elementary

Interim principal says teamwork will lift long-struggling Moton Elementary

BROOKSVILLE — Less than a month after taking over as interim principal at long-struggling Moton Elementary School, Brent Gaustad says teamwork by educators across the district has things looking up.Behavior has improved, he said, and innovative proce...
Published: 02/15/18
17 dead, 15 wounded, former student in custody after Broward school shooting

17 dead, 15 wounded, former student in custody after Broward school shooting

PARKLAND — An American nightmare unfolded Wednesday afternoon at a South Florida high school after police say an expelled teenager returned to campus and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing 17 and wounding 15 more in the worst school shooting ...
Published: 02/14/18
Teachers take tests too. And when they cheat, Hillsborough has a knack for catching them

Teachers take tests too. And when they cheat, Hillsborough has a knack for catching them

TAMPA — Claudette Wilson and Annella Fender are sisters from Jamaica who did everything together.They both taught at Dowdell Middle School — one English, the other reading. They played tennis on Saturdays. After their match, they would work on their ...
Published: 02/14/18
No raise this year for USF president Genshaft; pay and benefits to remain at $925,000

No raise this year for USF president Genshaft; pay and benefits to remain at $925,000

TAMPA — The University of South Florida System’s long-serving leader will again stand to make about $925,000 in pay and deferred compensation under her proposed contract renewal.If approved, President Judy Genshaft’s contract will provide for about $...
Published: 02/14/18

Pasco School Board: Principals should alert families of potentially controversial books

Recently adopted law that gives parents and other residents more opportunities to review and challenge school instructional materials has sparked the Pasco County School Board to take a closer look at how it deals with such situations.The board last ...
Published: 02/14/18