SUCCESS STORY: Keith Stich ~ Hit the Ground Rolling
by The Eagle Staff
“Look out! Here he comes!” Suddenly, rolling in as if on wings before an unsuspecting crowd of innocent bystanders, this wheelchair-bound student would scoot in and stop on a dime, barely keeping all four wheels on the ground. LCCTC’s ramps -- they were a welcome challenge, and sometimes, like his own personal skate park. You would think that such a young man, paralyzed by birth, would have a lot to frown about, but for 2009 Commercial Arts graduate Keith Stich -- if he was having a bad day, you’d never know it from the mischievous smile on his face.
Was he a bad kid? Nope. In fact, he was an honor roll student often pushing himself to step outside of his comfort zone and not only face challenges and achieve well beyond expectation. He even took Dual Enrollment courses in History and Speech!
Did he commit himself to a life of stagnant moments gazing out the window? Nope. If there was something going on, Keith found a way to enjoy it, too! To this day, Rotary Outstanding Vocational Award (ROVA) Coordinator, Tracy Becker of Rotary District 7280 still recalls Keith by name: Keith...
As an Eagle Scout, Keith is able to list himself with the likes of astronaut Neil Armstrong, President Gerald Ford, and television host (and staunch supporter of the skilled trades) Mike Rowe. Keith proudly recalls his 2009 service project: installing a new tile floor in the Believers and Seeker's Bible School Room at the United Methodist Church where he remains an active member.
His Dual Enrollment Speech teacher, Mrs. McVicker states, "Keith is an extraordinary young man. It didn’t matter the obstacle; he finds a way to overcome his physical limitations and participate, no matter the event." She recalls that in high school, when his friends were doing crazy tricks on their skateboards, Keith donned his leather gloves, tied himself to his board and jumped and ended up wheels-up -- just like the rest of the crazy kids! Tales of the fun he and his friends had “hot rodding” on his family golf cart were notorious! In high school, he could often be seen sitting at the benches in the academic wing while his friends tried to pop-a-wheelie in his chair, but they never did it as well as Keith could. Much loved by all, he rolled himself across the stage to accept the crown as Prom King; when offered a seat on the stage to accept his high school diploma, he and his friends chose to make sure he found a way to savor every moment -- just like everyone else.
Keith’s life after high school STILL continues to amaze. Upon graduation, he traveled to Minnesota to earn an Associate Degree in Applied Science from Century College and landed a job right after graduation. He currently works as an Orthotic Technician at Elite Orthotics of Zelienople, PA. Because of his work, he is able to help others who have experienced similar struggles -- a dream come true.
Another dream was achieved in 2014 and 2015 as Keith traveled to Las Vegas to compete as a Powerlifter. He not only set a World Record once; he did it TWICE in two different weight classes as he benched over 300 LBS! An inspiration his Bulldog Powerlifting Team from Southside Barbell in New Castle, PA, “Team Stich” t-shirts can often be seen on these monstrous men who have realized the size of Keith’s never-give-up mindset, inspiring them to do the same. One of his biggest supporters, Leonard Rich, Director of LCCTC, has often commented, “Keith [has] never let his disability keep him from having a positive attitude toward life.” Mr. Rich can be seen spotting Keith at the Pittsburgh Monster Lift; see this video of Keith’s amazing achievement: https://youtu.be/f-MNqJCiGmk. In fact, Mr. Rich is a proud member of Team Stich as he wears his t-shirt with the message: “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”
Grounded in family, one of Keith’s favorite achievements has been winning a national title with my brother at a national shooting match. His beautiful wife, Kirstie, cheers him on with camera in hand as Keith also builds, designs -- thanks to his Commercial Arts training, and races remote controlled cars at Barnstormers Raceways; at least with his current hobby, keeping all four wheels off of the ground is a welcome occurrence! Of her husband, Kirstie has said, “Keith lives a "no excuses" life. Everything he does proves that to me. Who would have thought I'd be lucky enough to marry such a determined man?”
A member of LCCTC's 2017 inaugural Hall of Fame, Keith is a go-getter; once he sets his mind to something, he hits all four wheels on the ground and he's rolling, daring you to try to catch him. He always has been like this. If any quote could sum up Keith’s approach to life, it's this one found within his Facebook cover photos: “No rest is worth anything, except the rest that is earned.”