GARY, Ind. -- A talented and determined Wirt High School senior, once considered by his teachers to be mildly retarded, was named this year's recipient of the $20,000 U.S. Steel scholarship for his academic achievements.
At a school assembly yesterday at Wirt, teachers, administrators, city and company officials praised Anthony White, 18, for his determination in overcoming a misdiagnosis that sent him to special education for his first four years in the Gary schools.
"Someone told him he couldn't succeed. Someone told him he was retarded because he was in special education. But he kept saying 'I'm bright. I'm talented.' In May he'll graduate second in his class," Superintendent James Hawkins said.
When he was 6 months old, a fall impaired Mr. White's ability to speak, leading to the misdiagnosis and his placement in the special education program.
Speaking to his classmates, Mr. White said he was proof that having special needs was no barrier to achievement. He thanked his special education teacher, Sylvia Washington of Aetna Elementary School, who first realized he should be in the regular curriculum.
Ms. Washington said she remembered Mr. White as an inquisitive, cooperative and determined boy whose love of reading persuaded her to move him from special education.
"By being an avid reader, it helped boost his ability in other subjects. We try to get the students early to boost their skills when they fall behind. Every child is different, but this time it worked," Ms. Washington said.
Mayor Thomas V. Barnes said Mr. White's accomplishments were the result of a community effort.
"This would not have happened were it not for a supportive family, a teacher who made an impact, a good corporate citizen, his classmates and, most importantly, Anthony White," Mr. Barnes said.
Among his other school activities, Mr. White is editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, president of the science club, vice president of the computer club and a tutor for other students.
Mr. White is the third annual scholarship recipient and will receive $5,000 each year for four years and have the opportunity to work at U.S. Steel during the summers.
Mr. White said he planned to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he will major in special education.
"I want to come home and teach the same thing Ms. Washington taught me," Mr. White said. He received several standing ovations from his classmates during the assembly.