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Central student tackles all tasks

Delajuan Boggs wants to do what most people take for granted. But for him, there will always be extra challenges.

"I'd like to live on my own (after graduation)," said the 16-year-old learning disabled junior from Central High.

At Central, there are many people cheering him on to achieve his goal. Delajuan is in the Exceptional Student Education program, and also participates in the Community-Based Vocational Experience.

This program teaches students all phases of holding down a job, from applying for a position to dressing appropriately. As part of the program, Delajuan works as a bagger at Publix for four hours a day, several days a week.

One of his strongest supporters is Central's head coach, John Wilkinson, who sees in Delajuan the drive to succeed, the kind of drive that got Delajuan silver medals in bocce, swimming and bowling at last summer's Special Olympics.

"Delajuan's academic skills may be limited, but his enthusiasm is not," Wilkinson said.

The two met when Dee, as he's often called, came onto the practice field during football season two years ago and asked about playing the game. After rethinking it, Delajuan instead asked to be manager for the team.

"I said, "sure,' " Wilkinson said. "He seemed like a nice kid. I'll give anyone a chance and see how they work out. And he's been doing a great job ever since."

During football season, Dee gets the coolers ready, gives the players water, carries equipment, helps fix helmets and shoulder pads, and basically, "does it all. Whatever we need him to do," Wilkinson said.

Coach Wilkinson sees the progress Delajuan is making, despite some formidable odds. With no permanent home situation, Dee does not get the support outside the school that most kids do, Wilkinson said.

With football season ended, Delajuan is looking forward to helping coach Brant Stevens again when track starts at Central in February.

"Delajuan's always a blast to have around," said Stevens, who is also the student's reading teacher. "He gives the shot putters a hard time, telling them he can throw further than they can. Then when he's asked to prove it, he says something like, "I don't feel like it now.' "

Delajuan enjoys the verbal sparring and being part of the sports teams.

"It's fun and I just like hanging around with the guys," he said.

Coach Wilkinson has great hopes for Delajuan because of Dee's helpful attitude, sense of humor and determination.

"I know he's going to make it. He's an independent person and gets along well with all the kids. He's a practical joker and a funny guy.

"And I can count on him being here every day that he's supposed to. He doesn't have all the hangups some kids might have about doing certain things. Whatever we ask him to do, he does and takes pride in it."