Even when he was young, Dawson Skidmore was proving that he had a heart for helping others.
When he played Special Olympics basketball, he cared more about coaching his teammates than he did about his own success, said his grandmother, Patricia Anderson.
“He’d get to the ball and then help another player get the ball,” she said. “He’d let them shoot, he’d encourage them.”
Now that he’s 16, it’s clear that Dawson’s desire to support others is shaping his current education as well as his future plans.
He’s a junior at C-TEC, studying culinary arts and is working as a server at the Inn at Summit Trail, an assisted living facility.
But last summer, he expanded his resume, completing a State Tested Nurse Aide (STNA) program and earning his certifications in CPR and phlebotomy.
“He’s always been very driven,” Patricia said. “When he decides, ‘This this is what I want to do’, that is what he’s going to do.”
Early in high school, Dawson worked to understand and deal with his ADHD diagnosis, which gave him the ability to focus on his grades and classes as he got older..
His dedication to improvement was clear after he turned a Summer Work Experience — through Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities — into a long term job at Bob Evans, moving from a dishwasher to a grill cook. He began looking at the culinary program at C-TEC.
Inspired by his mother, Tawny Anderson, he also decided to look into STNA courses. His mother, who passed away in 2021, had been an STNA.
Several people told him it wasn’t the right time to pursue that certification, but Dawson didn’t give up.
“I don’t think ‘No’ is in his dictionary,” Patricia said.
His grandfather Tawn Anderson, known as Pawpaw, made a connection with the Training Center in Buckeye Lake and supported Dawson in enrolling in its STNA course.
During the course, he would wake up early, go to class all day, come home and study and get ready to do it all again.
After he left Bob Evans for the Inn at Summit Trail, he added two-12 hour shifts to his busy schedule.
Dawson completed his program at the top of his class, earning the same score on his final exam as his mother had.
His certification lasts for six months and he is planning to take the final Ohio STNA exam in the summer.
He and Patricia — who he calls Mamaw — decided to also take a phlebotomy course together.
Although Patricia has years of phlebotomy experience, taking the class with her grandson helped increase her confidence and reduce her test anxiety.
He talked me through it and we studied together, he coached me through it,” she said. “During tests he helped me feel comfortable.”
Dawson is now certified in Ohio for phlebotomy and is interested in pursuing his national certification.
Dawson, who loves to cook, said he’s enjoying his classes at C-TEC. He’s had job offers from other assisted living facilities but he enjoys being able to walk to the Inn at Summit Trail from his grandparents’ house. He recently earned a raise.
“They want 10 more like him, over there,” Patricia said. “We are very proud of him.”
He doesn’t have a lot of time to watch TV or relax. When he is home, he’s always helping his siblings and his grandparents.
“He’s always been a go-getter,” Patricia said. “When he sees someone struggling, he helps.”
Dawson has always been driven and committed to connecting with people who support him on his journey, from his team at the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities, to his instructors and his supervisors at work, Tawn said.
He is honest about what he wants and needs and doesn’t give up until he finds the right people to help him get there, Patricia said.
“If he didn’t speak up for himself, he wouldn’t be where he is today”, she said.
With experience in healthcare and culinary arts, Dawson has a variety of skills to offer. But when he’s done with high school, he’s thinking about going to school for massage therapy.
Whatever he ends up doing, his ultimate goal is to be there for others and help people through hard times.
“If I was in a bad moment, I’d want people to help me,” he said, “So I want to help them.”
Tawn said he’s hopeful that Dawson’s determination can inspire other teens who’ve faced difficult times.
“Push through it, you’ll get there and you’ll have a network of people who will try to help you,” he said. “When an opportunity presents itself, don’t be afraid of it.”