GOOSE CREEK, SC (WCSC) - It's high school graduation time and while we applaud every student who marches to "Pomp and Circumstance," this accomplishment is very special for one student in particular. Rhyan Coleman is graduating from Goose Creek High School in the top 25% of his class. He plans to attend college and he's autistic.
Students in Ms. Smith's physics class are learning about conditions in space by testing the question, "Can you play golf on the moon?"
Rhyan Coleman is one of her eager students taking the lead when it's time for small group discussion.
"Describe how difficulty with walking or running on the moon would affect at least one sport."
Rhyan's leadership and communication skills are proof of just how far he has come, living with autism.
"When I was in the beginning, I couldn't even get, I couldn't talk to anyone. I was just that shy, just that shy.... then I started reading."
Rhyan knows he faces different challenges than his peers, but he doesn't let that stop him. From performing well in class, to performing in the marching band, he has thrived in high school.
"How an amazing ride. Amazing life. Autism didn't affect me at all. I have so many friends."
Rhyan's mom Angela Simmons knows he wouldn't be where he is today, if not for the proverbial village of friends, teachers and other educators.
"Just in the support, and making him feel accepted, making him feel as though he's a part of the group...and never making him feel like an outsider."
When Rhyan was diagnosed as autistic at the age of three, his mom noticed something special about him.
"I think one of the splinter skills of autism is hyperlexia, he loves print, and so even when he was younger, when we went to church, I would give him a phone book....and that kept him focused."
By kindergarten, he was reading well above his grade level, so his teacher decided to try something unusual to help his social skills.
"And they would allow him to go to the second grade classes to read to the second graders. Which even though he was different to them, it gave them a sense of respect for him. And because of that, they didn't look at him so much as being different."
One teacher who took notice of Rhyan's intelligence is assistant football coach Steven Gabriel, who is a resource math teacher at Goose Creek. He says Rhyan pays attention to things, that most typical teens don't.
"Cause somebody was talking about somebody lying and then he makes a Watergate reference, Richard Nixon I will not tell a lie. And of course all of the other kids are looking at him like, who's he talking about...I'm like, well that's Richard Nixon, former president. So I get the joke, a lot of adults get the jokes, because he knows so much."
As Rhyan gets ready to graduate he acknowledges -- he couldn't have done this, without the love and support of family, friends and educators.
"I have millions, I can't even name them all, but from the bottom of my heart, just thank you for al your prayers, your compliments, your trust, your believing in me."
Rhyan is fascinated by astronomy, and wants to be a meteorologist. Goose Creek High students graduate next Friday.