This guest post is by Andrew Charrier, a young man on the autism spectrum who has been accepted into and will be attending Northland College where he will be majoring in Climate Science. Andrew 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 and how to apply for my scholarship here. I’m trying to make this nonprofit self-sufficient so I can make this my full-time job supporting the special needs community and could use your help. Learn more on how you can help our cause here.
Feeling the Possibilities
It was August 8, 2009. I was seven years old when a tornado touched down in Minnetrista, which is a city in the Lake Minnetonka area where I live. It moved across Stubbs Bay, destroying a garage while pulling shingles off of several houses along the way. A nearby boat was picked up by the tornado as it turned into a waterspout and it was thrown into the lake, where it sunk. The tornado then moved up the road less than a mile from my house. Road signs were bent and trees were uprooted, falling across power lines. Our house suddenly went dark.
I sat in the darkness of our lower level, wondering what would happen next as my parents scrambled to find flashlights and candles so that my two brothers and I wouldn’t be scared. But I wasn’t afraid. I was fascinated by what forces of nature could create a tornado with such power, even for a storm that only registered at EF-1, the least destructive on the Enhanced Fujita scale.
Ever since I was a young student, tornadoes have been a favorite area of study. I have done projects about them in school and tracked storms through emergency alerts and websites. Since I became a Senior at Orono High School, I have applied and been accepted to colleges with programs in Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology. I want to understand more about how storm systems are created and how to track them more effectively.
It hasn’t always been easy for me. When I was six years old, I was diagnosed as PDDNOS on the ASD. When I was four, I couldn’t even manage a conversation or respond effectively to anyone. After intervention as well as support at home and from teachers, I started to overcome these limitations. I grew from having below average scores into achieving perfect straight A’s in 9th grade.
Now I am preparing for college at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin to study Climate Science with a focus on atmospheric science. In November 2019, I was awarded placement in the National Honor Society. I was also named to the prestigious Order of the Arrow for exemplifying the highest Scout character and I was the official Scout bugler for over a year. In January 2020, I achieved the honor of Eagle Scout after only three years in Scouts. I have played trumpet since 5th grade and am in the Symphonic Band; I also play both acoustic and electric guitar.
At home, I own my own boat which I maintain and use to travel around the lake where I live. All summer in 2019, I biked to the Orono Municipal golf course every week day for work at 6:30 am. In addition, I worked for three years in the Foxhill neighborhood where I live on Smiths Bay, weeding and cleaning garages, pools and boats so I could earn money for college.
Staying active and keeping fit is very important to me. I love to hike, swim, and ski– both downhill and cross-country. Being outdoors feels therapeutic and a future in environmental sciences feels like a natural fit for my interests. My totem animal is the wolf which symbolizes loyalty, independence and strength. It has taken 11 years for me to get here and because of my hard work, unconditional love and support from family and teachers who believe in me, I am ready.
As I sat in the darkness that August in 2009 with my brothers while waiting for the power to come back on, I wondered what it must feel like to chase after those tornadoes. I could imagine the high winds in my face, the hard rain pelting the tracking vehicle and that dark, swirling cloud on the horizon as lightning flashed above. It wasn’t fear of the future that I was feeling. I was feeling the possibilities.
Kerry Magro, a professional speaker and best-selling author who is also on the autism spectrum started the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference in 2011 to help students with autism receive scholarship aid to pursue a post-secondary education. Help us continue to help students with autism go to college by making a tax-deductible donation to our nonprofit here.
Also, consider having Kerry, one of the only professionally accredited speakers on the spectrum in the country, speak at your next event by sending him an inquiry here. If you have a referral for someone who many want him to speak please reach out as well! Kerry speaks with schools, businesses, government agencies, colleges, nonprofit organizations, parent groups and other special events on topics ranging from employment, how to succeed in college with a learning disability, internal communication, living with autism, bullying prevention, social media best practices, innovation, presentation best practices and much more!