Senior Dallas Curativo Graduates This Year and Looks onto What’s Next in the Future


Credit to Amber Winkler

Senior Dallas Curativo poses with a rainbow being reflected on his face.

The stadium was destroyed. Large machines and bare earth now inhabited where the important structure once sat. Once he saw that the construction of the new Francis Howell North high school had begun, senior Dallas Curativo came to the realization that he would be graduating this year. This is when he discovered just how much he would miss this school.

When Curativo was born, he experienced a traumatic brain injury due to a bleed in his brain, which led to seizures at birth. The brain injury changed Curativo’s life when he was six, resulting in him being diagnosed with a developmental disorder known as Autism. In 2010, Curativo had his third brain surgery, this one to separate the two hemispheres of his brain. Curativo’s mother, Heather Novak said the surgery stopped his epileptic seizures, which saved his life. 

“When he came out of surgery, he recovered and he was no longer angry,” Novak said. “Before, he didn’t know what empathy was, he would fall down and wouldn’t know to cry because his brain was so deteriorated by the seizures. So, when we got the surgery for him in 2010, his brain opened up and that’s how he was able to learn and read and he’s calm and he’s caring and he’s empathetic.”

According to Novak and Pentecost, Curativo’s Autism mostly affects the way he learns and processes information. The surgery allowed him to learn easier, go to middle school and then onto high school. Curativo feels like a part of the community and really loves it at Francis Howell North. Curativo loves to attend every dance he can and also loves to participate in spirit days leading up to the dance. He has made many friends at North, including his girlfriend, fellow senior Julia Kottmann.

“I absolutely love [that he has a girlfriend],” Novak said. “He and her. You couldn’t get such an innocent relationship. They do genuinely care about each other. It’s just, it’s so sweet. Her mother and I, we make it a point for them to be together and see each other and it’s just, they love each other, they know that it’s love.”

Curativo’s classes are a little smaller than other students at North, with only 10-12 students in each classroom. These smaller classes allow for more individualized learning for the students in the program. For Curativo, this gives him the ability to speak more freely and learn at his own pace. According to essential skills teacher Lisa Pentecost, he likes to say what’s on his mind, tell jokes when he has the opportunity and make very accurate comparisons with Marvel movies when he is in the classroom. 

“He’s had a lot of growth,” Curativo’s essential skills teacher Lisa Pentecost said. “He’s had a very positive effect on his teachers and the students around him. He’s brought a lot of joy to people’s days. He’s just in a good mood all the time and if he is a little cranky about something, he’ll just snap out of it so fast. If somebody else is sad or mad he’ll just be like ‘oh’ and he pushes all of his feelings aside or anything he’s feeling bad about. He’s there for other people”

Curativo’s high school experience differs a little from others since he isn’t really focused on getting into a college or any other post secondary education. As his time at North is coming to an end, Curativo’s has been preparing for his life after high school. Curativo has been going to the Applied Retail and Business Skills program at Lewis and Clark technical school, also known as ARBS, to help him transition into life after high school. There, he learns essential skills for a work environment and gets some training in that area. These skills will help him with a job after he leaves high school. 

“He totally totally enjoys Lewis and Clark,” Novak said. “He really loves it there. He learns so much over there that’s going to benefit him when he does go to work, that’s what’s awesome about it.”

Leaving high school may be very hard for Curativo. When he graduates next spring, he will lose the structure and routine that he has built and become so used to within the walls of the school. This means that he will have to build new routines for his life at home once he has completed school. He will also be leaving behind some of the relationships he has created over the years. According to Novak, she will be doing her best to ensure Curativo still gets to see his friends from North whenever he can. 

As Curativo thinks about his future, he considers where he wants to go and what he wants to do next. According to Novak, he will likely continue to live with his family and will have to get a job at some point in the future. Curativo says he wants to travel to places like Washington, D.C. and to one of the Disney parks after his graduation. 

“Yeah, I am graduating,” Curativo said. “Right after 2021 is 2022, that’s next year. When I saw, walking out there, that they are making a new school, I’m noticing I am going to miss this place like so hard. Especially Jake [Kent], Pentecost and everyone else.”