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June 2, 2004

Youth honored by Kroger for courage

From:, GA - Jun 2, 2004

Chris Humeston doesn't let CP hold him back from job


Chris Humeston does not know it, but he is inspiring to the people around him.

Chris, 20, who just received his diploma from Centennial High School, is so determined to overcome any obstacle that gets in his way, he scarcely stops to wonder what other people might think.

But talk to his teachers and co-workers, and they say he has an amazing spirit and will to succeed.

Despite having cerebral palsy which confines him to a wheelchair and being profoundly deaf, he has surprised his peers and adults around him.

"Never underestimate Chris," said Sharon Munzenhaier, head of Centennial's program for the deaf.

"Give him a challenge and he will own up to it."

Munzenhaier has been teaching Chris for six years. With his deafness, he must sign or use his "sidekick," which allows him to type messages.

"People would be a little afraid to approach Chris because he has almost no language, but he is intelligent and has a great sense of humor. He takes math, trigonometry and calculus, and does the figuring in his head. That blows me away," Munzenhaier said.

One man who is not surprised at Chris's accomplishments is his dad, John Humeston.

"I'm very proud of Chris, but truthfully, I am not overly surprised at what he is able to do. Anything he's ever done, he has succeeded at it," Humeston said.

He said Chris is an "amazing individual."

"First people see this stigma [about his disability], then they adapt to him. Chris just draws them in," Humeston said.

Humeston, who has another son, Nicholas, 19, and daughter Neisha, 24, said when he moved to Atlanta, he began house-hunting by interviewing school systems. He liked what the Fulton school system was doing for challenged students and chose to live in Roswell.

Chris went to work for Kroger as part of a work-study program at Centennial. But when the program was over, the people at Kroger wanted him to stay on. That suited Chris just fine. He is quite independent, and is always looking for things that interest him.

"Don't tell Chris he can't do something. That will just inspire him to go try it. He's not afraid to tackle anything," Munzenhaier said.

Maria Habowski, Kroger manager at the Scott Road Kroger, has been working with Chris for three years. She said he is a great employee. Her biggest challenge is to find work that lets Chris think, otherwise he tends to become bored. Now he spends 16 hours a week at the computer compiling schedules, deliveries and the like.

"You show Chris once, you don't have to show him again. When he first came [in the work-study program], it was obvious he could do a lot more than what we were asking him to do. He did inventory and accounting at the school store, so fit in right away here," Habowski said.

Habowski let her boss, Kroger Atlanta Division President Bruce Lucia, know about her special employee, and he paid a surprise visit one day to honor him for the example he sets at Kroger.

"We have a lot of special folks at Kroger, but Chris does such a great job, the store wanted to thank him for his attitude and the job he does," Lucia said.

Chris said he likes his job a lot more than going to school. He was clearly pleased at the "surprise" ceremony Kroger officials held at Chris' desk.

But as much as he likes what he is doing at Kroger, Chris is already looking ahead and sending out resumes.

He says he wants a career, not just a job. No one standing at his desk doubts he'll find what he is looking for.

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