Madisonville senior Shawndrick Ross has battled autism and inspired many on his journey through MCISD and will join his classmates at graduation on Friday.
“Some may look at Shawndrick and see limitations, but I see an overachiever,” said his mother Nikki Craft. “Life with autism has brought many struggles, but his courage to conquer it all inspires me. The life lessons he has taught me are far greater than any I could offer him.”
Despite his non-verbal autism, Ross has worked through the MCISD system since the age of three. Craft couldn't help but reflect on the different stops along the way and the memories and struggles therein.
“On his first day of pre-K, Melody Turner and I were defintely nervous and afraid,” said Craft. “He had never spent time away from us before and we didn't know what to expect. He walked through those doors cradling his Tweety Bird pillow and never shed a tear.”
Craft credits Mrs. April Zachary for making Shawndrick feel loved, welcomed and protected throughout his elementary days.
At the intermediate campus, Ross perfected picture communication and worked hard to improve his writing skills with the help of Mrs. Donna O’Brien. The ability to focus was always extremely difficult, but he plugged his ears to block out distractions and kept trying.
“Shawndrick is no quitter,” said Craft. “He is highly motivated to accomplish what is placed before him.”
Ross continued to find out more about himself and his capibilities in his junior high days. His teachers were quickly discovering this as well. They were about to learn and appreciate his gift of speed.
“This was when Shawndrick would test the waters and see what he could get away with,” said Craft. “Coach Jarrod Byrd was on him like white on rice… until he learned how fast he could run. I should have warned him not to chase Shawndrick, but he’d learn soon enough. Life isn't always about who can finish first, but who can endure to the finish. However, Shawndrick finished first in this case.”
While the early days of high school were difficult, Ross has blossomed into a confident young man who learns more and more about respect everyday. Those close to him are amazed by his increased ability to maintain eye contact and the way he associates with his peers.
“The way they’ve accepted him makes my heart smile, they’ve been so helpful and sweet to him and I’ll never forget that,” said Craft. “I’ll also never forget the love and support from so many around us. I’ll never forget Mrs. Yvonne Morgan’s kindness and her prayers or Mrs. Suzanne Smith’s pure heart and dedication to see Shawndrick through. Life isn't about where you start out, but where you end up.”
Shawndrick Ross will walk with his original classmates in the Johnson Collesium at Sam Houston State University on Friday night. He will return to MCISD next year to continue working on life skills and possibly learn job skills as well.
Shawndrick and his class helped raise money for two scholarships, sang Christmas carols at the nursing home and helped cook Thanksgiving dinner for the MCISD administration.