ZIONSVILLE, Ind. – The class of 2020 may not have awards ceremonies or in person graduations, but that doesn’t mean their hard work and accomplishments should go unnoticed.
FOX59 is highlighting seniors across central Indiana who have overcome obstacles, given of themselves in service to the community, or embodied the principles the district hopes to see in students.
For Zionsville Community Schools, it didn’t take long to identify one such individual, Vaugn Mihok.
Over the last four years, Mihok has worked to improve the lives and experiences of those with special needs.
It was a desire he says began back in elementary school. Seeing his peers picked on or excluded, Mihok developed a desire to bring change.
One word that may best sum up Mihok’s last 4 years is inclusivity.
“I really think it’s one of the most impactful things to do in our schools,” he said.
Freshman year, he began by joining Best Buddies. It’s an organization that empowers people with special needs through one-on-one friendships.
He is now the president of the school’s chapter – one of the largest in the state.
Buddies are paired during a student’s sophomore year. Vaughn was paired with a student named Cole.
“I don’t really see him as my ‘buddy’ anymore,” he explained. “He’s one of my best friends and our friendship has grown so much since we first met. I’m lucky to call him my best friend.”
Mihok didn’t limit himself to just one program. He was involved in Peer Classroom, which works directly with special needs students on building life skills.
He participated in unified football and unified track. Both teams welcome athletes with special needs.
“He just has a heart to lift others up and help them be connected in every way possible,” said Zionsville Community High School Principal Timothy East.
Mihok’s involvement on the swim team would take his efforts outside of the classroom.
“Me and my friend Tara Harmon started a non profit called Swimming For All which teaches kids with Autism how to swim for free,” says Mihok.
In two years, the students have given over 200 individual lessons.
“It’s really great to see the kids excel. Many of them can now jump off the diving board, or swim on their own without touching the ground. It’s great to see and know that you made an impact.”
When East was asked why he chose to share Mihok’s story, the answer was simple.
“We just know that the world is a better place for people that have the kind of heart Vaugn Mihok has,” he said.
Next year, Mihok will head to school at the University of Massachusetts. His friends Tara Harmon and Kate Sifferlen will continue Swimming for All. The students are also discussing ways to make the program available to families for years to come.