A college/scholarship essay by Ethan E.
My world was changed by a boy with no words.
I was born with amazing gifts. I walked at eight months old, talked before I was a year old, could skate by two, and had a noticeable mathematical aptitude before I started school. I have always had phenomenal athletic ability. I instantly excelled on the baseball field, basketball court, golf course, and hockey arena. My family cheered me on to victories and championships! I have always made friends easily, and would be considered one of the more popular kids in school by most. I was gifted with a remarkable musical ability. I was first chair in band, play several instruments by ear, and sing impressively. I gleamed on the stage in lead roles in musicals. These were the things that were important to me – my abilities. This is what I thrived on!
When Austin entered my life, my entire outlook on my life changed. I had been volunteering with special needs kids for several years at school, with Special Olympics, and camps, but I had never had exposure to somebody quite like Austin. The kids that I had paired with before as a “best buddy” and mentor were mostly kids with Down Syndrome and other limiting challenges, but all had the ability to express themselves and to be mobile. Austin however, is different. He is unable to articulate words and is powerless to connect with anyone. It seemed as if he was nearly void of emotion and interaction capability. I began visiting with him several times a day at school and bringing my lunch to eat with him. To his teacher’s surprise, Austin began to recognize and respond to me. Within days, he was smiling and excited when I walked into his classroom! I began spending time with Austin and his family, taking him out to lunch and even going bowling! Eventually, his family agreed to bring him to a football game with me despite fears that Austin would be unable to cope with the noise. To his amazement, Austin sat through the entire game happy and smiling! Austin had never had a friend to “hang out” with. He had never been invited by friends to lunch or to a football game. Not only had I become his friend, I was his first.
I don’t know why I was gifted with all of the abilities and talents that I have. I don’t know why Austin was handed the challenges that he has. I do know, however, that this connection with Austin has entirely replaced the importance I placed on my own abilities. It has become apparent to me now that even with all of my abilities, wealth, belongings and status that life could offer a person the best possession one could hope for is true human connection.
Because of Austin, the boy who changed my world without a single word, it has become my passion to develop a Best Buddy Program in college and initiate this program in local schools across the country. I had the opportunity this past year to meet with the administration at a local college about the benefits of implementing the Best Buddy Program at their campus, and realized that there are so many schools that do not have knowledge of how beneficial and enriching such a program could be. I have decided that while I am in college, I would like not only to spend my time furthering my education to become a special education educator, but also to create even more human connections by meeting with school administrators and educators to assist them in establishing the Best Buddy Program in their schools as well.
My high school’s Best Buddy Program began for me as a way to enhance the life of another, but in the end the most amazing thing happened – my life was the one that was improved!
Thank you Austin, you changed my world and it is a better place.