Autistic Valedictorian Graduates With 4.0

valedictorian with autism

Montel Medley is the class of 2014’s valedictorian at Surrattsville High School in Prince George’s County Maryland. It comes as no surprise that he has achieved a 4.0 GPA; his own personal struggles may be more surprising.

During his graduation speech he touched on typical subjects such as thanking family and teachers for their support and guidance, coming of age, being an adult, and the future of their careers. The young man then shared something that set him apart from many of his fellow students and previous valedictorians. He began to open up about his personal journey with autism, poignantly stating, “Having a disability doesn’t mean you have a disadvantage. Sometimes it can be an advantage.”

Montel has overcome many obstacles, though his journey to the top was far from easy. At the age of 3 he was considered nonverbal and started to attend programs ran by the Department of Family Services. Soon his vocabulary started to grow. In elementary school he was enrolled in special education classes. However, his teachers realized his high academic ability and sent him to a mainstream classroom. Although in some of the years he required an aide, by his junior year of high school he was completely on his own.

The high school’s autism program coordinator, Aisha Clarke, witnessed Montel’s progression during his high school career. In freshman year, like many of the kids, he was apprehensive in sharing his autism but by 12th grade it became something he wasn’t ashamed of. He now simply tells people, “I think differently.” Through the school’s program he also learned how to develop his social skills and deal with his anger.

For college he will be attending the prestigious Towson University that boasts notable alumni such as Mike Rowe (TV Host), Jermon Bushrod (NFL), and Stacy Keibler (Actress).

Montel’s story is an inspiring one in showing triumph over adversity. Fewer than 60 percent of students with autism get a high school diploma, which is a significant 20 percent lower than the national average. Not only has he exceeded but also helped redefined the stereotype. At Towson University, he plans to major in applied mathematics and is confident that his college career will be met with success.

Original coverage by The Washington Post.

Written by Raiza Belarmino

This entry was posted in Autism America, Autism Awareness, Autism Education, Autism News and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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