Josiah Malesic, an 18-year-old senior at On Track Academy, wants to connect with all things that creep, crawl and walk on four legs.
He may move on to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, this fall and hopes to study biology. His interest lies specifically in zoology.
“I always used to watch the Animal Planet when I was little,” he said. “Steve Irwin used to talk about saving animals and endangered species and about how humans are having too much influence on the environment. That really got me into working with animals, and my interest grew from there. I always had pets, and I lived on a ranch for a bit.”
Malesic remembered catching snakes in the park with his friends in grade school. Days in his hometown of Lander, Wyoming, also consisted of hunting, fishing and time spent in the outdoors.
He was born in Durango and lived there throughout his early childhood. He likes the idea of going back to his roots, but he does have some reservations about going to Fort Lewis College.
“It’s the one college that’s accepted me that I really want to go to, but I’m not 100 percent sure if I’m going to attend there yet,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m ready for college, but at the same time I want to get out of my house. I want to be on my own.”
Malesic’s high school career was not easy. He faced many emotional obstacles, in part due to difficulty adjusting to his family’s frequent moves. He tackled these issues through months of cognitive therapy. His move from Lander, where he lived for well more than 10 years, to Bend, Oregon, was a “low point in (his) life.”
“I didn’t fit in at all (in Bend), and I wasn’t very good at making friends,” he said. “I was really depressed, went on medication and underwent therapy. I wasn’t able to talk about it for a while.”
This struggle with his mental health intensified when Malesic moved to Spokane and a new friend of his at Ferris High School took his own life during his junior year.
“It was very sad, and I didn’t understand why he did it,’’ he said. “I was in shock for a while. I bottled it up for a really long time, for probably about six months.”
He decided to see a counselor because he knew he needed to face his emotions rather than mask them.
“I decided to live with it and make it a part of my reality,” he said. “I decided to acknowledge the fact that he was gone.”
Amy Erickson, a family friend from Lander, noted his perseverance despite his challenges.
“He’s a great kid,” she said. “He’s had lots of obstacles in his life, and he’s overcome them.”
Malesic’s heart remains huge. He cares deeply for his family, especially his mother.
“He’s such a caring, kind young man, and he’s always thinking of others before himself,” Erickson said. “He’s always thinking about his mom and little brother.”
Erickson also described Malesic as “well-liked” and “popular” when he lived in Lander, and an excellent athlete, especially during his time wrestling and playing soccer.
Malesic traced his favorite high school memory to freshman year when he won third place in the state wrestling championship in Wyoming. He also enjoys playing football.
He is most proud of his academic improvement in recent years. In this past year, he has taken three quarters of college classes at Spokane Falls Community College, including English, communications and political science, and his grades have dramatically improved. He is glad he was accepted into his school’s Running Start program and said it is “the best part of my life right now.”
“Since I’ve been in this program, I’ve kept a 4.0, and I’m really proud of that,” he said.
Malesic also appreciates the freedom and room to grow that the program allows.
“The whole high school mentality is just not my thing,” he said. “That’s why I enjoy the program I’m in at the Falls. It’s nice to not have the high school drama and popularity factor. I like the more mature setting.”
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