The Burbank High School honor student is a junior this year, but physical education requirements almost kept him from his goal of a distinguished diploma: The kind of diploma the 16-year old will need if he wants a shot at physics or engineering degrees.
"I'm going to need some really good math and science scores, along with pretty good physics scores," Stach said. "I need to get into a good college with that, so a minimum diploma would kill that, along with “Special Ed,” that would have to be put on the diploma. Otherwise, it would just ruin the whole thing."
Stach suffers from spinal muscular atrophy. He's never walked and has been confined to a chair since he was 12 months old. And high school PE class requirements are -- quite simply -- a waste of his talent.
"Why take a blind man to a magic show? Why take a deaf man to a symphony? It's basically insulting," Stach said.
To get his proper credits, the school district worked out a PE deal, and Stach is now the basketball team's manager.
This past week, an invitation came to visit UT Austin, where Jonathon and his father rubbed elbows with scientists who challenge the world around them.
Just last May, the Raizen Group was recognized in Discover’s online magazine for “Refuting Einstein in 4 Easy Steps: Physicists Measure Brownian Motion.” (They did it!)
Stach said he was excited to discuss theories, as they bantered about filtering atoms and using electromagnets to compress atoms and separate isotopes.
"The lab resembled more of a basement, which suprised me," Stach said. "But I was told that's how all the geniuses work, and I believe them."
“We had a great visit with them, and the students were very happy to show Jonathon the experiments," said Alicia Raizen, who watched her husband and his group of scientists interact with the teen. "Jonathon was in his comfort zone! He was even explaining the science to his dad."
She added: “Mark saw something in Jonathon in your interview that only he could tell you about which, I believe, is the quality that he sees in the students who come to work in the group. That's why he believes that he can help Jonathon along his path and inspire him further.”
Stach proves to be an inspiration, all on his own: Texas lawmakers received Stach's help in crafting a bill that gives some 60,000 other disabled students across Texas a fair shake at a top diploma. It began with testimony before the State Board of Education, where Stach helped state Rep. Joe Farias get some amendments to the PE requirements.
Farias is now expected to sponsor a similar bill in Texas’ 2011 legislative session.