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State Honoree

John Ortman


John Ortman, 14, of C.R. Anderson Middle School in Helena, Montana, befriended a fellow classmate who suffers from cerebral palsy and has since made every effort to learn how to communicate with the disabled and to ease the fears of other classmates. John's relationship with Sierra, a wheelchair-bound eighth-grade girl who could speak only with a computer's aid, began when he sat next to her in class one day. Three years later, the two are best friends. Sierra encouraged John to learn more about the disabled by joining a group that teaches kids to understand disabled people. Since then, John has learned how to "speak" with Sierra, has introduced her to many of his fellow classmates, and has helped to redefine "ability" and "disability" in his school.