May 26, 2011 in Washington Voices

EV senior drafting a future for himself

By The Spokesman-Review

East Valley senior Hunter Bonawitz doesn’t let physics or cerebral palsy get in the way of the goals in his life. He can’t speak but uses a communication device and actively participates in class. He plans to attend Eastern Washington University to pursue a degree in engineering or drafting.
(Full-size photo)

Hunter Bonawitz, a senior at East Valley High School, defines himself as “motivated.”

In an essay he recently wrote for a British Literature assignment, he said, “I’m driven to succeed… I don’t want to sit in a corner and watch life pass me by.”

Bonawitz was born with cerebral palsy, and although it’s thrown him challenges, such as not be able to walk or speak, he hasn’t let it get in the way of his goals. He drives the EVHS hallways in his wheelchair and uses a computer to communicate.

At school, Bonawitz said he feels like he’s pretty independent, keeping up his grades, which are mostly A’s and B’s, and he enjoys school, his friends and the staff. “I like East Valley because it’s small and the teachers are great,” he said.

Diane Schultz, his para-educator, has been Bonawitz’s “hands” for the past four years, taking notes, keeping track of his homework, sharing notes back and forth with Bonawitz’s mom, Dana, and laughing “a lot.” After four years, Schultz knows what he needs and she knows that nothing is going to slow him down.

In his British Literature class, his teacher Tammy Havren described Bonawitz as a perfectionist and said that he keeps her on her toes, but that he works hard, is strong and very passionate. “I love when I get writing pieces from Hunter because I really get to hear his voice,” Havren said.

Drafting is Bonawitz’s favorite subject in school and it shows, having taken it six semesters, beginning his sophomore year. For his senior project, he designed a snowplow that, when completed, would attach to Bonawitz’s wheelchair.

He has completed 34 drafting “plates,” or projects, since joining the class and last semester he drafted a Gatling gun, which he explained was based off of the Vulcan Cannon. Drafting teacher Bill Close said Bonawitz is meticulous and comfortable in the class and with the subject.

“It’s been a joy teaching him, he’s a great kid,” Close said. “His only limitation is me. Hunter’s only going to do great things.” Close also said one of the many things that he has enjoyed about having Bonawitz in his class is that he laughed at his jokes.

Outside of school, Bonawitz likes to play computer games, watch movies and play cards. He also spends time at his grandpa’s house, where he enjoys driving an old pickup truck. “Of course, I don’t drive it alone. My Uncle David sits next to me and works the brake pedals and has his hands ready to grab the steering wheel if I get into trouble,” he said.

After he graduates with his class on June 15, Bonawitz can look ahead to his future, which includes attending Eastern Washington University, where he’ll major in drafting or engineering.

His plans beyond college graduation include working for the government, designing military weapons and equipment. “Special Forces personnel of our military fascinate me and that’s what I hope to focus on,” said Bonawitz.

His dad, Lee, is a retired Navy Intelligence Specialist and his older brother, Remington, is active duty Navy Intelligence. “I think it runs in my blood,” Bonawitz said. “I can’t serve in active duty, so I’d like to serve in the civilian capacity, working.”

Bonawitz said he’s ready to move on and see what happens next. He knows wherever he goes, it’ll lead to success. Bonawitz has a huge support system.

“Everyone in my family is supportive of my choice to attend college and try to earn a living on my own. I want to do something besides sit on the sidelines and everyone who knows me is cheering me on, he said. And, Bonawitz refuses to give up, as he expressed in his British Literature essay, “For me, failure is not an option.”

Rainey Coffin can be reached at (509) 927-2166 or via email at raineyc@

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