The school year may be coming into the final stretch, but the seniors in Cooper High School's physics class still have important work to do before their high school career wraps up.
In a small group setting on May 24, senior Carl Malone emerges as a leader. But life wasn't always this way for him.
"It's taken me a lot of work to be able to cope in a school environment," Malone said.
That's because Malone has autism, yet throughout his four years at Cooper, he's persevered and flourished.
"I've been able to still get good grades," he said. "I'm graduating with high honors, which was my goal."
His english teacher, Diane Pulling, sings his praises.
"You would not even know that he had overcome challenges," Pulling said. "He has never met a person who isn't his friend. Whatever group he belongs to he emerges as a leader."
Malone's most recent example of leadership came just before prom. That's when he received help from law enforcement officers to organize activities to teach his fellow seniors about the dangers of drinking and driving.
"I had some tough times with alcohol in my life," Malone admits. "My father was never present in my life because he was affected by alcohol."
His teachers say his efforts to educate students about alcohol resonated with his peers.
"When it comes from a fellow student, I think it's much more widely received," Pulling said. "And when it comes from someone like Carl, who's so admired and liked, I think it's especially meaningful."
A job well done by this Standout Student, who graduates from Cooper on June 7, and looks forward to his future at St. Cloud State University, where he plans to major in criminal justice with a goal of becoming a police officer.
But first, he has to get through physics class.
"It was a great accomplishment and it's been tons of work, years of work," Malone said of his high school career.
May 24, 2012