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Francis Howell student wins Youth Leadership Award

Andrew Tollefson, who was recently named the winner of the 2017 Youth Leadership Award by the Governor’s Council on Disability [Photo courtesy of Alex Rowe]

Andrew Tollefson, a junior at Francis Howell North, recently was awarded the 2017 Youth Leadership Award. Organized by the Governor’s Council on Disability, the award recognizes young adults with disabilities who demonstrate their leadership abilities by going above and beyond in their community. Andrew was chosen for the award based on his involvement in a wide variety activities that improve the quality of life of people with disabilities.

“As a student with motor and communication differences, Andrew knows first-hand the challenges that a label can present, but he has made it his life’s mission to help people see beyond their first impression,” said Cathy Fortney, therapy services coordinator for the Francis Howell School District. “He always has a warm smile and a contagious laugh. He’s truly a delight to be around!”

Andrew strives to help people better understand the ability behind disability. Not only is he a force to be reckoned with academically [he has had perfect attendance since the sixth grade, has a near 4.0 GPA and is a repeat Honor Roll member], he is extremely active in extracurricular activities. Andrew is a member of the Knights of Excellence and We Are All Knights Club; he mentors students year-round and serves as a tutor at Henderson Elementary, listening to students read and assisting the classroom teacher.

During elementary school, Andrew attended DisABILTIES Awareness Week with other students in his grade. Being inspired by the event, he began sharing his story with students.

“I hope that they can see during my presentations that I can do almost everything that they can do with the help of technology and paraprofessional support,” Andrew said. “By sharing my personal story and answering their questions, I think people are more aware and accepting of those with special needs. I think it’s important for everyone to see that students with disabilities are kids just like they are and we want to be included too.”

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