Unusual physical condition is no obstacle to teen’s achievements

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LIBERTY, Mo. --  We admire risk takers. Not the ones who recklessly put themselves and others in danger. We’re talking about the ones who confront adversity and obstacles and fearlessly put themselves on the line to show us how to succeed in spite of them. A Northland 9th grader is one of those risk takers and he’s the FOX 4 Young Achiever of the week.

“We’ll see a new generation of heroes,” said Warren Barge. “People who can lead the world into a bright future.” That's a snippet of a moving original oratory Warren crafted for debate class at Liberty North High School where he is a freshman this year. Heroes are very big for Warren, this week’s FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever.

“Ever since I was a child, I really looked up to heroes,” said Warren. “That’s kind of shaped me into who I am.” Warren is hitting his stride as a high school student.
“I like it a lot,” said Warren, “it’s a lot more freedom than middle school.” And many people at Liberty North are discovering heroic qualities in him, attributes that people at Heritage Middle School admired during his three years as a student there.

“He’s always so focused on things that help others,” said Heritage principal Scott Carr. “He’s a people magnet. People love being around him. If you were to watch him walk through the halls, kids gravitate towards him because he’s kind to everybody.”

Warren has that empathy and concern for others because of a major physical challenge he’s faced. Due to an injury during birth that severely damaged nerves in his upper arm, Warren has a condition known as Erb’s palsy. His right arm was paralyzed, bent out and locked into an awkward position. According to The Birth Injury Guide, one or two babies out of 1,000 are affected by Erb’s palsy.

“As a child, my mom told me that if I got it strengthened, then I’d be Superman,” said Warren. Over the years Warren’s gained some limited mobility with his caring parents persistently pushing him along with therapy and strategies to force him to use his affected arm and undergoing three major surgeries.

“I remember, in 7th grade, I had a cast that was full body,” said Warren, “and it was this, too, and there was a big pole that went through it. That was fun.”

Undaunted by it all, Warren has taken on life, scoring big in academics, theater, debate and community service. He’s produced entertaining, thought-provoking, message-oriented short films that have earned him state champion and national honors in the PTA Reflections student art program. And he’s assumed important and influential leadership roles, including serving as a member of the State Council of Missouri 4-H.

“I think a lot of times it’s easy to take something that limits your life or your movement and use it as an excuse not to do things,” said Scott Carr. “And what I see in Warren is that there’s never any excuses.”

The pitch is another place where Warren has never let his physical impairment be an obstacle to his success or doing what he wants to do. As a member of the Liberty North High freshman team, he gets out there on the soccer field and really mixes it up with a lot of talent, spirit and tenacity.

“I kind of want to be that person when I grow up that people can look back and say, ‘even with that disability he was able to do those things,’” said Warren. And be a hero to be looked up to like the ones who shaped him into who he is.

“I do think that it can help out others just to see that while something that could have been very, very bad isn’t really affecting this guy’s life that much.”

Warren’s impressive leadership extends to politics and government, as well. He was a page for the Missouri Democratic Convention and a page for a member of the Kansas City Missouri City Council during her election campaign.

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.