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Wildcat Chronicle

The student news site of West Chicago Community High School

Wildcat Chronicle

The student news site of West Chicago Community High School

Wildcat Chronicle

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Humans of WEGO: Owen Payton’s heart of gold

Senior Owen Payton has had to overcome more obstacles but most, but does so with a brave face, and a kind heart.
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Senior Owen Payton demonstrates his school spirit, posing with the wildcat during lunch. (Photo courtesy of Owen Payton)

“Open-heart surgery” is not a phrase teens hear every day. Most have no idea what is involved in such a complex and high-risk surgery. Those who do perhaps picture a grandparent or elderly neighbor who has a weak heart. They certainly do not envision one of their own peers – a fellow teen who has endured not just one open-heart surgery, but three. And yet senior Owen Payton has one of the biggest hearts of any Wildcat at West Chicago Community High School.

“Owen’s greatest accomplishment is just being here everyday. There were many times when Owen was a baby that we were not sure he would make it. Owen has overcome all those obstacles and we are lucky and blessed to have him here with us. Also finishing high school and working is a bonus,” Owen’s father, Christopher Payton, said.

For those who are unfamiliar, Owen is well-known for his kind heart and ambition; he is the type of student who says hello to his teachers, and is a fiercely loyal friend. Owen is also determined to pursue hard challenges, including sled hockey, despite being born with a heart defect. 

“My heart isn’t as strong as the other person’s. It still does what it’s supposed to do, but at the same time, it’s weaker than that. I’ve had multiple procedures done to try and negate that. Put myself on the waiting list for a heart and finally got it two years after being put on the list,” Owen said of the complete heart transplant he underwent in 2014. 

“That changed me a lot. After the fact, I was a lot more energetic and had a lot more energy to do things,” Owen said. 

But prior to the 2021 transplant, Owen was not able to experience a similar childhood to his classmates, though he explains his family made sure to make Owen’s life very memorable. His parents still encourage him to stay strong during the difficulties he experienced through a young age.

“We believe that Owen has been extremely resilient when it comes to his medical challenges. He has taken most things in stride. Owen always seems to rise to the challenge when needed,” Christopher said.

According to Owen, there have been times when friends wanted to participate in an activity he could not, and while Owen has learned to deal with his medical challenges, there have been other complications, including the feeling of being alone. 

Owen is the president of WEGO’s anime club, where he has met many friends. (Photo courtesy of Owen Payton)

“At the beginning, during all my medical stuff, it was harder to interact with other people: the fact that I have one thing that makes me stand out between me and other people around me. When you have these difficult medical problems, it’s kind of hard to go through school at the same time you’re dealing with these types of things that you really can’t control by yourself,” Owen said.

In the past, peers bullied Owen because he was different.

“People made jokes and made fun of me. Just because of things I can’t control. I don’t want to see it as a negative thing that happened to me. Just because someone thinks differently of me that doesn’t change what I can and can’t do overall,” Owen said.

Despite everything he has gone through, he still looks at the positive aspects of life. He does not let other people’s opinions affect what he thinks about himself. 

“I honestly think that these medical events are a big part of my life and if I didn’t have to go through them I’d probably be a different person than I am today. So I kind of am thankful for some of it,” Owen said. 

He mentioned how now he embraces what makes him different, and continues to push himself to reach his goals.

“I’m at a position comfortable for me to work with,” Owen said.

Owen has a core group of friends who support him as well.

“Owen is determined to reach all of his goals which inspires me to try my hardest. He is an amazing friend and overall just an amazing person,” junior Rowen Canabal Ferris, one of Owen’s friends, said.

Owen with his sled hockey team, the Chicago Hornets. (Photo courtesy of Owen Payton)

Nowadays, he is very active outside of school and has a job at Classic Cinemas located at the Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles. Owen has worked there for about a year now, and his job consists of checking people’s tickets. While the part-time job pays the bills, his true passion is sled hockey. 

Owen has played goalie for the last five years with the Chicago Hornets, a nationally-competitive sled hockey team. In fact, two years ago, the Wildcat Chronicle reported on the team’s second place finish at a National Sled Hockey Tournament. Owen would love to continue playing this sport after high school, and maybe even after college, as he knows some players who used to compete with the Hornets now play for the USA Olympic sled hockey team. Owen’s dream would be to one day play for that team, but for now, he is concentrating on finishing out his senior year.

At WEGO, Owen is also the president of the Anime Club. He has a huge passion for anime: his favorite is “Demon Slayer”, with his top character being Tanjiro. Anyone who gets him started talking about anime will find that Owen is eager to share his opinions.

“Owen enjoys the company of others and can talk nonstop about topics that interest him,” Christopher said. 

According to Owen, there are about 12 people in the club, and he has been able to make friends with all the members, despite not really knowing them before the club. 

“Owen is a great president for Anime Club because he cares about the club and the students. As the president he helps plan what the club will be doing for the semester. He plans for activities, like cooking ramen together in our kitchens, planning for field trips, like visiting Mitsuwa Japanese Market or deciding what games to play as a group. In the beginning of the year, he helped establish our calendar and our Google Classroom. As you can see, he has been really active with the club. Owen has a great personality and gets along with everyone in the club. He is very inclusive and always greets everyone with a smile. He loves all types of Anime and always has a suggestion for the Anime of the Week. The club will miss Owen when he graduates,” Anime Club adviser Sandra Wilson said.

In the future, Owen is still undecided, but plans on attending a college. He has applied to several, including Augustana. Owen mentioned college is not a sure thing, and he might attend it later on rather than immediately after high school.

“Our hope for the future is that Owen is happy.  No matter what he ends up doing or not our ultimate goal for Owen is to appreciate the things he has and accomplished and be happy,” Christopher said.

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About the Contributor
Eric Deguzman
Eric Deguzman, Reporter
Eric Deguzman is a senior who likes to hang out with friends and family. Eric also used to play baseball for the school, but stopped because he was busy all the time. In Eric’s free time, he likes fishing with his dad and learning piano from his mom. He also enjoys watching TV shows with his younger sister and catching the latest sports games. His favorite sports teams are the Celtics, White Sox, and Bears. Aside from all that, Eric wants to be successful and influence people so he can feel like he lived life with a purpose. He plans to go to College of DuPage for two years, and then a university after.
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  • Mrs. Gierzynski, subJan 24, 2024 at 2:10 pm

    What a well-written and insightful bio about an interesting and unique student. Owen has overcome more challenges than most, but is always smiling and happy in any class I’ve ever subbed in. I wish him a long, full life filled with experiences he will treasure as memories. And Eric, please keep writing–no matter what else you do.