Remembering Nathan's life: Bench dedicated to student
Appeal-Democrat - 5/12/2017
May 12--Nathan Clingan helped classmates, participated in the Yuba-Sutter Special Olympics and took the time to become everyone's friend.
Nathan was always having a "magnificent" day.
Students, faculty, staff and administrators dedicated a special bench earlier this week to memorialize Nathan, who drowned last year.
The dedication project was spearheaded by Mike Greer, a special education teacher at Park Place, which offers a fully immersive classroom for 18- to 22-year-old students with special needs. The classroom features a kitchen, garden and assigns students chores.
"This particular student had an impact on everyone that was around him," Greer said. "He always had a smile and he was always ready to help somebody."
Greer and students had a baked potato luncheon, which raised $900. Greer used the money to purchase redwood, building materials and a plaque. The remaining $450 was donated to the Yuba-Sutter Special Olympics so scholarships could be gifted in Nathan's memory, Greer said.
Greer brought his personal woodworking tools so Nathan's classmates could assemble the bench, which now sits outside their classroom door.
"He was very well known. He was just known throughout the area," Greer said. "He never met anyone who didn't become his friend after five minutes. That's just who he was."
The bench offers a place for his classmates to think about their friend and talk with a school psychologist if needed, he said.
During his 17 years teaching special education, Greer said he has had former students pass away. Nathan, who was 21 at the time of his death, is unique because his accident occurred before he had graduated from the program. Greer said that, combined with Nathan's character, spurred him to do something.
"It's just something that was right," he said. "He's the first student we've had, since I've been here, who was a part of the class when he passed away."
William and Paula Clingan, Nathan's grandparents, said they felt the bench was a great way to remember their grandson.
"He'll be in our hearts forever," William Clingan said. "I think (the dedication) was an important part of the healing process for us. We can always go back to the bench and talk to him."
He said the bench was built very well and the plaque truly captured Nathan's can-do attitude.
"He was always a 'yes' person," William Clingan said. "Anything they wanted to get done, he would certainly do it. He affected a lot of people -- not just there but everywhere he went."
The grandparents will remember their grandson and the effect he had on the community for the rest of their lives, they said.
"To me, he was just like any other student who was striving for an honor for himself," Paula Clingan said. "He deserved it."
Nathan's superpower in his class was his helpfulness, Greer said. Each student chose superheroes to represent them; Nathan chose Superman.
"He did things nobody knew he did," Greer said. "He was fun to be with."
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