October 17, 2018
Meet Mitchell Strong.
His true love since he was a little boy has been freighters. Amazed at their size, their engineering and their ability to do what seems impossible: carry as much as 70,000 tons of cargo and stay afloat.
But defying the odds is something Mitchell understands personally.
Diagnosed with autism and dyslexia in the first grade, the now 20-year-old never stopped working toward his goals of earning a high school diploma and having a full-time job.
“As his mom I was devastated (when he was first diagnosed) but Mitchell said ‘Mom, it does not mean anything, it just means I have to work a little harder but I still can have my dreams’,” recalls Dana Strong.
After graduating high school, Mitchell worked for Wal-Mart and now works for a cabinet making company as he enjoys woodworking as a hobby. But his driving passion is freighters. In fact, Dana Strong says she cannot think back to a time when Mitchell wasn’t talking about freighters or getting to see his favorite ship, the Paul R. Tregurtha.
“I asked him once why he loves freighters and he said ‘How can you not love freighters? They are so important to America. They keep our economy alive…They are graceful and beautiful as they glide upon the water and the people who work on them give up so much in the way of the personal family and holidays just to make America work’.”
The Strongs live in Grand Blanc, near Flint, Michigan, and would often go to Port Huron and follow the shoreline when Mitchell was a child.
Even to this day while others are in the lake swimming, Mitchell has his binoculars out looking for freighters including "the elusive Big Paul" as he calls her.
This past weekend, Mitchell was able to see the Big Paul in person at the Soo Locks. The family extended their stay in Sault Sainte Marie so he wouldn’t miss the boat and they wouldn’t miss a chance to see this big, happy smile on his face.
"The PRT takes on life with the beauty of the Queen she is,” Mitchell told Dana this past weekend. “Others may have said a freighter cannot be that big or carry that much but Paul does it all. Just like I was told I couldn’t do general ed classes or get a diploma or even get a full-time job but I take on the doubters just like Paul."
We like your style, Mitchell. Keep on proving the doubters wrong!!