Graduation-‘Scooby’ is Carson’s favorite fan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 5, 2013

CHINA GROVE — Anyone who has attended a Jesse C. Carson High School football or baseball game knows Cullen Sullivan. They may not know his name, or even his nickname of “Scooby.” But they’ve seen him in the stands, dressed in bright orange and cheering on his team.

“Let’s go Cougars, let’s go,” he shouted at a recent baseball game, clapping as he led the crowd in a chant for the home team.

The Carson senior said he’s excited about graduating this Saturday, even though he’ll be sad to leave the school. Sullivan has mild physical and mental disabilities that doctors have termed “mixed syndromes.” He has some learning difficulties, and he has trouble seeing with one of his eyes and hearing in one of his ears.

Sullivan said he was nervous about starting high school, but that disappeared when he met his teachers, coaches and teammates. “I knew that they all had my back and everything, and they would all be there when I needed them,” he said.

During his freshman year, Sullivan was team manager for the football and basketball teams. He switched from basketball to baseball in his sophomore year. “I like it a lot,” Sullivan said. “I get to sweep out the dugouts, and I get to travel, going to different high schools and everything.” He said he also has fun hitting a ball and running the bases at the start of each practice.

Baseball coach Chris Cauble said Sullivan is an “integral part” of the team, and his positive attitude is an inspiration to them. “The kids and he have a great relationship,” he said. “They kind of treat him like he’s their little brother.” He said Sullivan can get a little carried away in his enthusiasm, but if anyone tries to make fun of him for it, his teammates put a stop to it.

At games and in the hallways, students fondly greet him as “Scooby” after his favorite cartoon character, Scooby Doo.

“Everybody’s going to talk to him. It doesn’t matter whether they’re baseball players, athletes or art students,” Cauble said. “Carson without ‘Scooby’ the last four years would not have been the same, that’s for sure.”

Sullivan is part of the Occupational Course of Study program, a modified curriculum for certain students with disabilities that focuses on post-school employment and independent living. Students in the program attend some regular classes with an OCS teacher, who helps explain the material if they have trouble understanding it.

As part of the program, Sullivan completed 300 hours of on-campus vocational training, 240 hours of community-based vocational training as a child coach, and 360 volunteer hours with Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary. Sullivan made sure to complete his volunteer hours this year before baseball season began in February, so he wouldn’t miss a practice. He still helps out some at the animal shelter, and he said he plans to keep volunteering while attending Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. Then, he’d like to go to a four-year college to study either athletic training or animal care.

“I want to thank the teams, the OCS crew and my teachers,” Sullivan said, “and my momma as well.”

Sullivan’s mother, Teri Hart, said he is a dedicated student who has impressed his teachers with his performance in class. “I think it’s wonderful (that he is graduating), and he’s accomplished a lot more than anybody really thought he would,” Hart said. “He’s come a long way, and I’m very proud of him.”

Cauble said he is excited to see Sullivan graduate, but it will be disappointing to lose him. “I’ll miss his positive outlook on life every day,” Cauble said. “I think he’ll come back to us and still be a part of us, but it just won’t be every day.”

Sullivan smiled and reassured his coach, “Oh, you know I’ll come back.”

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.