- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

TEXAS CITY, Texas (AP) - In Shawn Trader’s classroom, it’s important that students learn not just about welding, but that they also learn some important things about life, he said.

“I want them to learn things like discipline, safety, being on time, accountability and taking care of business,” Trader said. “These are all things they can carry on for the rest of their lives.”

The Galveston County Daily News (https://bit.ly/1yZon3B ) reports that for Gabe Simpson, a senior at Texas City High School who has muscular dystrophy, Trader’s class has taught him much more than just how to weld a custom barbecue pit. He’s learned just how far he can go with hard work, determination and a great group of friends and teammates.

Muscular dystrophy is a group of diseases that cause progressive weakness and a loss of muscle mass. There is no cure for the disease, but medications and therapy can help manage symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic.

As Simpson’s muscular dystrophy has progressed over the years, some things have become more challenging but he’s never let that get him down, Trader said.

“He dresses out every day, no complaints,” Trader said. “He’s always eager to learn and try new things.”

Simpson, who uses a wheelchair, said he loves welding. He first learned about the craft from his grandfather and has always wanted to try it.

Before joining Trader’s class, which is only open to upperclassmen, Simpson was worried he would not be allowed in the class because of the wheelchair. However, the school has fitted the shop to accommodate the wheelchair and he has developed his own techniques to get the job done.

“He’s really made his grandpa proud,” Trader said.

Now in his second year in the welding class, Simpson said he continues to learn all that he can and works to master his craft - even though there are some things he knows he won’t be able to do.

“I know there are some things I can’t do,” Simpson said. “But I have to at least give it a try.”

That go-getter attitude is what has made him such an inspiration to his classmates, Trader said.

He’s even earned the nickname of “Wheels” from his classmates. Each of the boys in the class has a nickname, Trader said.

“All of these boys love him,” Trader said of Simpson. “They would do anything for him.”

When working on a project or learning a new technique, Simpson does all the welding he can perform while in his wheelchair, he said.

His classmates, including his best friend Saul Aviles who he’s known since the sixth grade, will even drape his lap with flame retardant protective gear to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself being so close to the sparks from the welds.

Simpson has even developed his own technique to accommodate his progressive muscle loss. Trader has dubbed the technique “the sidewinder” because of how Simpson positions the welding torch on his opposite hand to get it to just the right spot.

That technique has proved to be successful as Simpson and his two teammates recently finished their project - a custom grill table that they plan to take to the upcoming district skills competition on Feb. 6-7.

One of Simpson’s main responsibilities was welding the frames together on the grill table, he said. The grill table even has an adjustable meat rack that can be raised and lowered depending on how much heat someone wants on their meat, he said.

One of the requirements for the district competition is that Simpson and his two teammates work together on the project, Trader said.

“It helps teach them how to work as a part of a team,” he said. “It builds togetherness.”

Aviles said he was lucky to have Simpson on his team. He is “a hard worker and has a lot of good ideas,” Aviles said.

If the boys place high enough in the district competition, there’s a chance they could go on to state, Trader said. He said he hopes they all get the chance to take their projects to state, especially Simpson.

“He has been a blessing to me and these boys,” Trader said. “He’s a real inspiration.”


Information from: The Galveston County Daily News, https://www.galvnews.com

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