Today, Goodhue High School senior Matthew Deneen will hear his name called as part of the class of 2014 commencement ceremony — something most graduating students take for granted.
Deneen was diagnosed with a hearing loss around the age of 4, shortly before relocating to Red Wing from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, with his family.
The son of Amy and Brian Deneen of Goodhue, Deneen was born in Pocatello, Idaho, and has a 16-year-old brother, Casey, who also attends GHS.
Adjusting to the physical changes of his hearing loss in elementary school, Deneen also adapted to the Goodhue School District with the move from Red Wing to Goodhue in third grade.
One of the instructors he has had from that time through his senior year is art teacher Cathy Nolt.
“It has been remarkable to see him adapt to all the technology changes and develop his own learning techniques,” Nolt said. “I remember when we (the teachers) had to wear the adaptors … I never once heard him complain.”
Nolt highlighted how Deneen has been successful as a student because of his ability to learn without making excuses.
“You would never know, otherwise, that he has a hearing loss,” Nolt said.
He has never said as an excuse, ‘I didn’t hear you say that.’”
Deneen’s favorite quote, which was printed on the senior night football program, is “The only disability in life is a bad attitude,” credited to Scott Hamilton.
With a positive attitude, Deneen said that the technology of hearing aids has really advanced, helping with the classroom adaptation.
“Matt is a creative student who works very hard in everything he does,” GHS Principal Mike Harvey said.
The senior’s attention to detail and patience in the classroom has combined to create several works of art this year in his independent study class with Nolt. This year’s projects include graphic design, sketching, pottery and other clay work.
Nolt requires her students to turn in artist statements with their pieces to describe, in detail, the steps needed for each project, especially since some of the best work can look — to the untrained eye — effortless.
“But I know how much work he has put into each project,” she said. “He is going to be a big success.”
One ‘nano’ step at a time
Deneen said that because of Nolt’s influence he had been drawn to the field of graphic design.
“She has always pushed me to do more creative projects and has given me many of her art books since she will be retiring at the end of this school year,” Deneen said.
Although graphic design fit Deneen’s creative side, his need for a challenge was still wanting, he said. The nanotechnology program at Dakota County Technical College offered the perfect marriage of creativity and challenge.
Spearheaded by director and author Deb Newberry, the DCTC nanotechnology program partners with the University of Minnesota to provide a research background focused on the tiniest of scales.
“I was looking for an academically challenging program,” Deneen said. “It is a new field with many discoveries yet to be found. The program is taught by the professor who wrote the textbook for the field, literally.”
Newberry, according to her biography on DCTC’s Web site, has worked for NASA, “studying radiation effects on micro and nanoscale satellites … working on more than 14 spacecraft in orbit.”
Deneeen said that Newberry developed the program at DCTC and also teaches at the U of M, so the consistent instruction will be one of many positive aspects.
“It is the top program in the nation with many job opportunities waiting for its graduates,” he said.
Wildcat words of wisdom
His advice to next year’s class is to not go along with everyone else but rather to “do your own thing.”
“Matt is one of the most polite and respectful students in our building. He has gone above and beyond, putting extra time and effort into his academics,” Goodhue School District guidance counselor Jessica Holst, said. “Younger students could learn a lot from Matt. He is a great role model.”
Deneen was awarded a presidential academic excellence award in 2011 and wildcat pride award in 2013 for his leadership in applying for and obtaining funding for the school’s first-ever electric car to compete at the state Supermilage competition in Brainerd, Minnesota.
According to Deneen, the team’s car made it twice around the track at the Brainerd International Raceway during this year’s Minnesota Technology and Engineering Educators Association Supermileage competition.
“That’s about six miles,” Deneen said. “We were really pleased, since last year’s car didn’t even make one lap.”
Goodhue’s electric car is still housed in Brainerd, according to Deneen. The MTEEA Supermileage Web site lists GHS as a participant in the competition since 1998.
Making the honor roll every semester, Deneen has also been very involved in GHS extracurricular activities, including:
•Teens Needing Teens
•Football (3-year letter winner)
•Wrestling (3-year letter winner and academic all-conference)
•Environthon (state participant 11th-12th grade)
Very interested in science, Deneen credits Dr. Dan Johnson, as a strong academic influence.
“I have had Dr. Johnson for three years … it is not very often high school students have teachers who have obtained their doctorate degree,” Deneen said. “He makes the subject interesting and allows group work, since most in most science fields the work is collaborative.”
Senior year has been his favorite of the 12 grades.
“I like being able to have more freedom in my class choices,” he said. “I have been able to take PSEO (classes), so I can get a head-start on college.”
Taking future plans one year at a time, Deneen anticipates furthering his education after college; however, he says his master’s degree decision will depend on his continued interest in the nanotechnology field and the future job market.
Class of 2014:
What: Goodhue High School commencement
How many: 47
When: 1:30 p.m. Sunday June 1
Where: GHS auditorium