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Park High School graduate profile: Mark Lukitsch ready to move forward

Mark Lukitsch — with his service dog, Avery — will graduate from Park High School June 5. Lukitch, who has congenital muscular dystrophy, plans to attend Augsburg College in Minneapolis, chosen in part for its wheelchair-friendly accessibility. Lukitsch plans to study communications. (Staff photo by Scott Wente)

When Mark Lukitsch started at Park High School, he said wheelchair-accessible seating at Wolfpack Stadium was separate from where his friends sat in the bleachers.

The separation took away from the fan experience for Lukitsch.

“It’s a little different,” he said of having to cheer on Park teams from his own section.

So Lukitsch worked with school administrators and said he even met with Superintendent Keith Jacobus.

“They upgraded it,” he said of the fix that moved the accessibility section into the bleacher area. A similar change was made to the visitor side of the stadium.

In his power wheelchair and with Avery the service dog at his side, Lukitsch is among the most well-known students at Park but he’s still found ways to blend in.

“There’s slight differences, but I would say it’s similar,” he said of his high school experience.

Lukitsch has congenital muscular dystrophy, which limits his fine-motor skills but not his ambition: He juggled a typical high school course load, taking a variety of elective courses ranging from criminology to sports marketing. He works part-time as a greeter at Walmart and is planning for college in the fall.

Lukitsch has settled on Augsburg College in Minneapolis, where he plans to study communications and possibly public relations. He chose Augsburg in part because of its wheelchair-friendly layout; there are tunnels that make the urban campus more accessible. He plans to live in the dorms.

“People always underestimate him,” said his mother Lisa Lukitsch.

Lukitsch said his experience at Park is different from other students’ in at least one way: “I’ve interacted with more people that students normally wouldn’t.”

There is a core group of people who assist Lukitsch at Park. He gets help from special education teacher Cara Grant, his case manager throughout high school.

“If I have a problem or need, I talk to her,” he said.

Paraprofessionals help out, and Lukitsch gets a ride to and from school from classmate Brichelle McRae.

And then there’s Avery, the chocolate lab. The service dog can open classroom doors, pick up something Lukitsch drops on the floor and help him live more independently.

Avery is popular with Lukitsch’s classmates but as a service dog isn’t supposed to be petted. Lukitsch joked that he’ll lift that petting ban on the last day of school.

Lukitsch said he has mixed feelings about leaving Park.

“I feel really comfortable here,” he said, “but next year’s going to be a new chapter — keep moving forward.”

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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