Liam O’Connell has a never ending well of creativity. He pours his effort into drawing, painting and making toys to match his interests and what he learns in school.
On a recent school day at Mazama High School, Liam pulled a half dozen foam toys he had made based on the anime TV show, “One Piece.” They toys articulate at the joints and match the characters they represent. Then he revealed dinosaurs made to match accurate drawings from books, with moving limbs, spikes, jaws and even teeth and tongues.
“Whenever I feel like it, I make something,” the 16-year-old said.
“He could fill a room up with what he’s got,” Liam’s father, Sean O’Connell said. “I think it’s fantastic. He’s always making something.”
Liam is one of 21 students in Mazama’s GOALS program, which serves students with developmental disabilities. “His talent is just amazing,” said paraprofessional Becky Stier.
How does he do it? “Time and effort,” Liam said. “I make them out of foam, and that’s about it. Make sure they look correct. I look at the pictures first and make them.”
“Our students come from varying backgrounds and disabilities that adds diversity to our school building,” said GOALS teacher Paige Denson. “Our program fosters a talent like Liam's because it allows for him to express his creativity and share it with the classroom and school building.”
Liam regularly shows his projects to other teachers and students around Mazama, whether it’s the toys he made or his drawings. In the GOALS room, he drew the design for a Dr. Seuss mural.
“I had a piece of paper drawn in sharpie, and viola,” he said, motioning at the mural.
“He gets something in his head and he just draws,” Stier said. “That’s what he does. When he has free time, he draws.”
Liam said he’s been drawing and making toys for four or five years. He said as he’s progressed, bigger projects like the toys have gotten easier. Stier said the GOALS class will learn about a subject one day, like dinosaurs, and the next day, Liam will come to school with toys he made based on what he’d learned in class.
“Every day he makes something new,” O’Connell said. “Just out of the blue. He doesn’t draw it. He just cuts it out and puts it together.”
“The next day he’ll say, ‘See what I made?’” Stier said. “Everything we talked about, he’ll go make. Just an amazing mind.”
Press release and photography by Samantha Tipler, Klamath County School District.