This guest post is by Nate Mackina young man on the autism spectrum who has been accepted into Cal Poly Pomona, studying Political Science. Nate is applying for the Spring 2020 Making a Difference Autism Scholarship via the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference started by me, Kerry Magro. I was nonverbal till 2.5 and diagnosed with autism at 4 and you can read more about my organization here. Can I ask for a favor? I’m trying to make this nonprofit self-sufficient so I can make this my full-time job supporting the special needs community and would appreciate you taking a minute before reading on to watch this video below and subscribing to our Youtube page here to get to learn more about the work we do in the community.

I hope you can support my nonprofit like I’m trying to support these students with scholarship aid for college. Learn more on how you can help our cause with a small donation (just asking for $3 today, equal to your daily cup of coffee) here.

Autism has been an interesting journey. It started with my aunt noticing when I was 2 and a half, that something was up, when she watched me play. My mom didn’t see it, but luckily other people did, and I got tested early. If not, I would have had more problems than I have currently. My earliest memories are that I don’t really have any. My mom remembers all of this, so I usually get this stuff from her.

Elementary school was a time of simplicity. You learned a bit and then played with your friends. One of the few memories I have is when I met one of my best friends in first grade. My mom was pregnant with my sister, but still driving me to school. My friend’s mom noticed this and offered to carpool with my mom. I knew him a bit before, but when you have to go to and from school together every day, you get to know someone well. We would often ride our bikes around town and on the nearby nature trail. One of the things I remember fondly is when we would use string, hot dog pieces and sticks to catch crawdads in the creek. Also, at this time I was going to speech therapy, occupational therapy and autism clinic, taking up four days a week making my schedule tight. I am grateful for all of that, because it made me better suited to interact with my peers.

Junior high was probably my least favorite two years of schooling. Although I had fun riding my bike to school with my friends, the rest of it wasn’t so fun. I was bullied and was threatened with getting beat up. And adding switching classes and multiple teachers to the mix, made it not a fun 2 years for me. But the silver lining was some great teachers that made subjects like math fun.

High school has been my favorite years in school, and mostly because of wrestling. I decided to do wrestling because a friend in my scout troop did it for a little bit and said it was fun. I went to the summer camp for it and I was hooked. I found new friends and something to be part of. I worked super hard and by the end of my first season, I had only won a single match at league finals. But after that season I worked harder. My sophomore year I had won a few matches. My junior year, I wrestled a match on varsity and lettered. My senior year I placed fourth at league finals, making me eligible for CIF as an alternate. I didn’t wrestle but just going to CIF, meant everything to me.

Through all of my schooling and therapy one thing that has stayed constant, Scouting. As I started in Cub Scouts in first grade, it has been in my life and has helped a lot. In Cub Scouts, my friends and I learned how to camp, hike and use knives. But the first transition into Boy Scouts was rough. All of my friends (all but one have since quit) went to the troop the pack fed into, but I was the only one who went to Troop 202. The transition meant a lot of change. I had to make friends, have a new uniform, a new book, and had to do it with not much adult oversight. I had a struggle in my patrol, who was constantly fighting, because of 2 people who were hard to work with. But we still had fun, and I had older boys who poured into me. I am thankful for them but one in particular. He had a big impact on me and made me the man I am today. Joaquin is an amazing leader and got things done. I was his assistant senior patrol leader, when he was the senior patrol leader, which is the boy leader of the troop. I ran for that position after him and won. I led the troop for 6 months, in which I had a lot of responsibility and it was tough. I planned meetings, led campouts, and most importantly made sure the boys got their stuff done. The craziest part of my term was when I led 22 boys to Oregon for summer camp. I had a lot of help, and my friend Evan helped me remember things when I had trouble. It was the best summer camp ever. Also, in my scouting journey I went to the World Jamboree with my brother and 3 of my friends. I was a quartermaster, so I had to go to the mini market they set up and using the points I and the other quartermasters were allotted, had to buy food for the entire contingent. It was hard to remember to do it all, but I did, and the meals turned out fine. I met a lot of people from different countries including Belgium, Italy, Australia, and Hong Kong. It was a blast, but it was challenging to be clued in all the time to not say something that at home would be fine but offensive to someone from another country. An example of this is when I was with a Belgian contingent and said something to the effect that it was dumb that they weren’t allowed to shoot at the ranges. I then had a pleasant conversation with an adult about the subject of firearms and we had a civil conversation about them even though we disagreed. Scouting has been the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Autism is a part of who I am. It makes me see the world differently. It has been with me places that I would have never imagined like my SPL journey or wrestling experience. It has its highs and lows just like life.  But the one thing, in spite of everything, the world is still my oyster, just waiting to be cracked open.

Follow my journey on Facebook, my Facebook Fan Page, & Instagram!

My name is Kerry Magro, a professional speaker and best-selling author who is also on the autism spectrum that started the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference in 2011 to help students with autism receive scholarship aid to pursue a post-secondary education. Help support me so I can continue to help students with autism go to college by making a tax-deductible donation to our nonprofit here.