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City Teen Lounge really keen thanks to Adam Goeken

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Adam Goeken strikes a kingly pose at Teen Lounge. He was crowned king of the Lake Oswego High School Winter Formal on Saturday night.Adam Goeken, with his powerized wheelchair, has run right over the word “handicapped.”

The first impression one gets of Goeken is wrong because he is a quadriplegic due to a birth injury. But the Lake Oswego High School senior gets around everywhere thanks to his power wheelchair. He writes a column (“A Few Things to Ponder”) for the school newspaper, is a member of the yearbook staff, and has had an especially big impact at the Teen Lounge, where he has hardly missed a day since it opened six years ago.

“Awesome!” is the answer you will get from Goeken whenever you ask him about something. Like being crowned king of the Winter Formal on Saturday. Performing the coronation was LOHS principal Bruce Plato.

“For Adam to be recognized like this says something special about Adam and about this school,” Plato said. “Adam is an inspiration to all of us. We’re all very proud of him.” But before this happened Goeken was named senior class prince. It happened in an overflow special assembly at Laker Field House, packed with suspense and fun as the announcements of princes and princesses of each class were made. The spotlight shined over the darkened gymnasium and fell on Goeken last.

“I said, ‘I just don’t believe it!’ “ said Cydny Winslow, teen program (ASAP) coordinator for the Lake Oswego Parks & Recreation Department. “It was inspiring to see everyone come out and support Adam like that. I was proud to be there.”

Especially excited for Goeken were two special friends, Torrie White and Nathan Vanderveer-Harris, who work closely with him as counselors at the Teen Lounge.

“It has been fun watching Adam grow,” said White, a LOHS senior. “It was fun watching him get crowned.”

Vanderveer-Harris knew before anyone else about Goeken’s selection as a prince because he was serving as co-emcee of the assembly. He also helped pave Goeken’s path to royalty by running an unofficial campaign for him.

“At lunch Adam had a bunch of supporters and we would go around telling people how cool it would be if he was crowned a prince,” Vanderveer-Harris said. “I knew in advance what was going to happen. I heard his name, they grabbed him and he got a standing ovation. A lot of emotions came over me. It was really special.”

Goeken’s reaction: “Awesome!”

Goeken now wears a real crown made of velvet with gold trim and a fancy design on top. But as a prince of the Winter Formal Goeken received a crown that resembled something anybody might pick up at Burger King. Goeken treated it like it was made of gold and gems.

The crown was such a potent symbol of what he has accomplished. Much of the credit for this goes to Goeken himself because of his great heart. But he has been hugely uplifted by his wonderful mom, staunch friends, and the outstanding program that Winslow has crafted at the Teen Lounge so it resembles sort of a Cheers without beer. A place where everybody knows your name and you can just be yourself — a teen looking for fun. Or to use a word that Goeken has personally coined “chillax,” a combination of chilling out and relaxing.

Cheryl Goeken, Goeken’s mother, has the deepest appreciation for the Teen Lounge and the work of Winslow, and it has only grown ever since the day the lounge opened when Goeken was in the seventh grade.

“It has made such a difference in Adam’s life,” Cheryl Goeken said. “His disability dissolves when he is there. Cydny has crafted such great peer support, and kids with differences can be as much a part of things as anyone. She has created an environment where every teen can be free. No one tells them they can’t do this or can’t do that.”

When her son was younger, Cheryl Goeken said it was easy to integrate him into elementary school classrooms. But in high school separate classes were established for students with special challenges. However, there are no gaps among teens at Teen Lounge.

“All are the same here,” Cheryl Goeken said. “Everyone gets respect.”

Certainly, people like Winslow, White and Vanderveer-Harris do a lot for Adam. As Goeken says, “The lounge boss (Winslow) makes sure everyone is safe and has an outstanding time.” But he does even more for others.

“Adam comes here on a daily basis and he has really blossomed the last two years,” Winslow said. “He really connects well with the other high school kids. He has inspired other kids to be more accepting. You can’t ignore him because he says ‘Hi’ to everyone. He’s changed lives, because some of the kids he works with have been inspired to pursue careers where they can help people experiencing disabilities.”

“Adam helps me see the good in life,” White said. “I love seeing how much he enjoys his friends and school.”

White and Goeken remain buddies even though “He kicks my butt in pool.”

Soon, as his mother said, Goeken will be graduating from high school and starting a new chapter in his life. He already knows exactly what he wants to do.

“It’s Adam’s intention to volunteer at ASAP and give back,” Goeken said. “It will be his way of paying it forward.”

More good news — Torrie White will be returning next year as a teen inclusion volunteer:

Goeken’s reaction: “Awesome!”

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