Owen Underwood, a third-grader at Washington Elementary School, was selected to receive a 2020 Outstanding Student Technology Award from the Infinitec Assistive Technology Coalition this spring. He was to be presented the honor at a dinner and awards ceremony on April 23 until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Social distancing left young Owen with no one except his family to celebrate his achievement. But that all changed on Tuesday, June 24th when more than two dozen teachers, staff members and friends pulled off a 10-minute parade past Owen’s Park Ridge house. Surrounded by family members, Owen smiled and waved as decorated cars drove by and teachers honked their horns and waved.
“It was a wonderful day and a great way to honor Owen's achievements,” said Dr. Lea Anne Frost, District 64 Director of Student Services. “I am so pleased he was recognized by Infinitec and thrilled that his team found a way to honor him.”
The District 64 student was selected for the award while completing his first year of using his own Chromebook. While the third-grader has a disability that could make learning very difficult and lead a child to give up easily, he has shown great resilience in pushing through his disability.
Owen, who was born with amblyopia, uses the technology to complete tasks and tests across all subject areas and has mastered reading and writing in various platforms on the computer. Using the Chromebook, he has become much more independent, showing an ability to listen to both written directions and reading passages across all subject areas. His teachers often joke to “ask Owen” for technology help prior to contacting their IT department.
Owen is an active member of the Cub Scouts, loves basketball, and is very interested in police, firefighters, and construction. His teachers describe him as a kind, determined and resilient third-grade boy who continues to work hard through his reading disability. Owen’s educational team includes assistive technologist Sarah Beuhler, teacher Sara Born, teacher Leslie Wesolowski, special education teacher Amanda Matocha, and special education coordinator Toni Galan.
District 64 is a member of Infinitec, an assistive technology coalition that works to advance independence and promote inclusive opportunities for children and adults with disabilities through technology. Infinitec operates as a division of United Cerebral Palsy of Chicago.