Arcadia senior overcomes loss, learning disability

Will Loewenhagen, the Extra Effort Award winner from Arcadia High School, plans to train to become a diesel mechanic after graduating in the spring.

Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune

ARCADIA — William Loewenhagen has taken many strides in the right direction over the past 11 years, and he will take many more as he progresses through life.

But the effort he showed during his teenage years has made him the La Crosse Tribune Extra Effort Award recipient for Arcadia High School.

Not only has William had to deal with the struggles of a learning disability, but he also had to overcome the death of his mother when he was in first grade.

“I don’t really think I deserve it, but if feels nice to know people think about me like that,” William said of being nominated by his teachers. “It’s very rewarding. “It feels really good.”

William lost his mother to colon cancer when he was in first grade. That also was the time that teachers started to notice William having a hard time learning and determined it necessary to hold him back a year in school. Shortly thereafter, it was discovered he had a learning disability in both reading and English.

“There were always a lot of teachers that helped me through it. There has always been a teacher that was there for me,” William said. “After that (first grade), I was always in a special-ed classroom where they helped me with homework and emotions.”

While William was having troubles in the classroom, he was also having trouble handling the emotions that accompany the death of a loved one. He said he was a “mean” kid and had trouble controlling his emotions, but his teachers helped him find ways to deal with his anger and turn those negative emotions into positive ones.

“I couldn’t control my emotions, and it led to some behavioral issues, but the teachers were always understanding,” William said. “Now I’ve learned to not be aggressive as much and be more of a gentleman. It has really helped.”

Another way William found to control his anger was to release it on the football field. After convincing his dad, Terry, that tackle football was a good option, William started to play in eighth grade.

He continued through high school and was on Arcadia’s varsity team for three seasons and helped the Raiders win three Coulee Conference championships, compete in the WIAA playoffs three times and compile a 31-3 record. He played center and defensive line for the Raiders as they advanced to the Division 5 state semifinals in the fall.

“It helped me with my anger issues and behavior issues. It gave me a release on my anger,” William said. “The family atmosphere brought me closer to my classmates, and made it easier to know that people care.”

Along with helping lead a team into the playoffs, William was also named a team captain and is an active member of the school’s chapter of the National FFA Organization.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all. I’m kind of an emotional guy, so I almost teared up, but I held it together,” William said of being named a team captain. “It would have been nice to go to (the) state (championship), but everything we did was worth it. The team showed me that on and off the field they will help you through the difficult times.”

William, an only child, also has developed a strong bond with his dad and said they can rely on each other when they are having a bad day or just need to talk. That bond has also led to many hours spent working on family cars and helped William decide that he wants to become a diesel technician after high school.

“My dad has always been a grease monkey,” William said. “After my mom passed away, I was in the shop with him, and I learned to love it.”

After visiting the campus last summer, William is set to attend Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa next fall. After college he would like to work for a local trucking company as a mechanic or a driver.