High School Heroes: Fremont teen a superhero to his classmates

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PLAIN CITY -- It's not often you find a high school student who can honestly say he's a friend to everyone, but we found just that student in Plain City, and he's this week's High School Hero.

Matt Nielsen, 17, rides through the halls of Fremont High School in his Matt-mobile. After all Batman is his hero. Matt is a true superhero to his classmates.

"Matt's truly a great kid," says Matt's friend Jesse Wilson. "In his eyes, he's no different from anybody else, and that's what I really like about him."

Another friend, Alec Stimpson, says, "Matt, he always makes you feel like you can be accepted and you don't have to be perfect to fit in with anyone, and Matt's just a really good friend."

"When he was 4 he was diagnosed with a brain and spinal cord tumor," explains Melisa Nielsen, Matt's mother. "And when they tried to take that out, it left him on the vent and the wheelchair, but before that he had just Down syndrome."

But that has never stopped Matt from doing what he loves: coaching basketball in gym class.

Fremont basketball coach Corey Melany says, "Matt's famous for his pep talks. Before we play whatever sport, Matt will gather them around and it'll be dead silent. He has command better command than I do."

Coach Melany adds, "He loves to have his clipboard out and draw up plays, and if a kid makes a bad pass, he'll call a timeout and come over and chew the kid out and say, ‘Hey, I told you to watch your passes.'"

Matt knows how it's done. He's a huge Jazz fan with favorites like Karl Malone and Deron Williams.

Though Matt may never be able to shoot a jump shot himself, he simply warms up his hands, uses his magic touch and his best friend gets it done.

Matt's a real superhero who is out to make the world, or at least Fremont High School, a better and happier place to be.

"There are normal people who aren't as happy as Matt," says Zack Spencer, "and it's like how can Matt do it and other people can't?"

Matt says he'll be sad when he leaves Fremont High School because he just loves it there.

Matt has been mainstreamed through the Weber County School system since first grade and has a nurse with him full time.

E-mail: kaiken@ksl.com


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