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Student’s success a source of pride at OTC

Every graduate who walks in Thursday’s OTC Commencement at JQH Arena will have a story of accomplishment and self-fulfillment when they receive their degree or certificate.

But few will eclipse Alex Heisterman’s pure joy when he receives his associate transfer degree.

Listen for Alex’s name toward the end of the program. Alex is autistic. He is on the high end of the autism spectrum, and he will wait in the arena tunnel where he can walk around before coming out to receive his degree because sitting for long lengths of time is difficult for Alex due to his autism.

As a child, Alex experienced difficulties with expressing his thoughts and maintaining his focus. As he entered public school, Alex had challenges interacting with other students. He was able to overcome those challenges through support services he received throughout his primary education and while he’s attended OTC.

“If I could give out an award to one student, Alex would get a gold star. He’s taken some of the most difficult classes OTC has to offer and he’s shined in every one,” said Julia Edwards, assistant dean for Disability Support at OTC. “In Alex, I see incredible potential, growing maturity. I just see joy. I could not be more proud.”

Thanks to Alex’s success and the success of other OTC students on the autism spectrum, OTC is exploring the development of a specialized program for students with high functioning autism.

Everyone is impressed by Alex’s work, including the Missouri University of Science and Technology where he’ll study computer science in the fall.

“I’m a guy who has potential who needs a little push in the right direction. OTC has given me that push,” he said.

He said he will miss Jeff Jones, a resource counselor in the disability services department.

“I had no idea that I held such a privileged position in Alex’s life,” Jones said. “He and his family have placed a lot of trust in me. What began as an advisor-advisee relationship now turns to pure friendship. I am proud of how hard he has worked to have accomplished so much.”

Alex is headed to Missouri S&T and he hopes to become a video game creator, which he’s been interested in since age 12.

“He’ll get that chance after picking up his degree from OTC. And if you don’t see him get his diploma, chances are you’ll know when it happens.

“My mom will be screaming like a cheerleader,” he said. “This is one big step in my future.”


Mark Miller

Phone: 417.447.2655


Steve Koehler

Coordinator of Publications

Phone: (417) 447-2666


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