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This guest post is by Zain Sitabkhan, a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Zain is applying for the Spring 2021 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.

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.

I figured out that I had autism during my freshman year of high school. Things finally made sense to me after that, as I had gone through challenging years academically and socially. I had to persist in excelling academically and I had to develop social skills that also did not come simply. Through all of this, I developed a passion for school, my community, and leadership in supporting others.

Being diagnosed with autism, things did not come easily for me. Also, I had to go through therapy for approximately 30 hours per week via Applied Behavioral Analysis(ABA), an approach that helped me catch up on the skills that I lacked. In elementary school, I struggled with my classwork initially, especially with reading courses for the first six years there. I made progress with each passing year, and this has not come without the support of so many, who helped me become more resilient and independent as an individual.

I used to be very dependent on two elementary school teachers who had a huge impact on my improvement, who both helped manage my IEP. I typically met with each of them every day at school during reading class, and they helped me strengthen my reading skills. If it had not been for them, I would not have been as strong in reading as I am now. I was also supported by my grandmother, who helped me practice my reading skills as well, along with giving me great life advice.

By fourth grade, I caught up with most of the skills I had previously struggled with. Since then, I improved academically and socially. By sixth grade, I was getting straight A’s. I even received awards and accomplishments over time, such as the Citizenship Award for my sixth-grade class, which is only granted to two classmates out of approximately fifty other students at my school. In middle school, I continued to put my effort into my academics and I even joined clubs and sports there. One accomplishment in middle school I am particularly proud of was earning the Herrick Pride Award during my first month there. This is granted to a few students each month who set a good example to others by showing pride in the school environment.

With classes, I managed to move up to accelerated math in eighth grade. Eventually, in high school, I had started taking more challenging classes including AP and honors courses. My exceptional performance in my academics had given me more accomplishments. During my senior year, I have been named an Illinois State Scholar for this school year, which is given to bright and optimistic students who perform well academically. I had also acquired the Science All-Stars award in my AP Chemistry class, which is given to only one student in my entire science class who performs the best. Along with rigorous classes and meaningful awards, I also dedicate lots of time to activities outside of the classroom.

Furthermore, I have had several community service experiences and participated in a variety of extracurricular activities during my time in high school. I was involved in several clubs and sports such as Chess Team, Tennis Team, Math Team, Science Club, French Club, Direct Action, and Blue Puzzle. I was very proud to contribute to our Chess Team’s second-place finish in the West Suburban Conference, which is comprised of thirteen other high schools. During my sophomore year, I was accepted into the Village of Downers Grove Peer Jury program, where I worked together with other high school students to ask questions and determine the consequences for first-time juvenile offenders. It was meaningful for me that I got accepted into this program as it gave me a variety of real-world experiences such as teamwork, volunteering, and leadership. Being inducted into the National Honor Society (NHS) as a Junior was another significant accomplishment. My favorite part about NHS is tutoring because I love helping others just as I was supported early on.

Along with the variety of opportunities, I have also been extremely grateful for the further support I received in high school. My IEP case manager taught me a variety of strategies important for later in life such as organization, emotional strategies, studying strategies, educational strategies, and a variety of others. These strategies helped me adapt to the academic and social environment at high school and also led to me becoming a more responsible and independent individual. I am proud to say that I have been accepted into my top college choice, the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). I have always enjoyed learning from elementary school to high school, which motivated me to never give up and led me to become more interested in pursuing a college degree in civil engineering.

In conclusion, the support I received throughout my formative years allowed me to become a better student and better person overall. I felt very grateful for the people who supported me and helped me improve, and the abundance of opportunities that came as a result of their commitment to my progress. I hope to be in a position to give back and support others, just as I was supported by so many amazing people in my life.

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.