Irmo, SC (WLTX) — A special bond with police officers has helped one Midlands student defy the odds and graduate high school.
Sometimes where you think someone will end up is different than what you expected.
17-year-old Curtis Smith has been on a long journey. At the age of 4, he was diagnosed with Autism.
“I’ve been waiting for it my whole life," Curtis said. "My mom was told I'd never hold a pencil, I'd never ride a bike. Worst of all, I would never get a diploma."
Yet, Curtis will do just that on Friday. He is defying his own odds to walk across the stage after earning his high school diploma.
His mother Dana says he’s come a long way.
"He's overcome a lot of obstacles," she says. "He used to not have the fine motor skills to be able to do things like hold a pencil or tie his shoes. Now he does things like repair computer hardware and install computer hardware."
His mother credits his success to special friendships.
"They've given him a safe space. They've let him be himself," explained Dana.
Len Wilkerson and Robert Oswalt, with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, are school resource officers at Irmo High School.
"They mean a lot to us, but sometimes we mean more to them than we even realize," Wilkerson said.
It's a bond that's grown since the sixth grade when Officer Wilkerson and Robert Oswalt started eating lunch with Curtis.
"I like to talk to them about a lot of stuff, especially about cops eating doughnuts," laughed Curtis.
"These kids are like our kids," Oswalt said. "I'm around these kids more than my own kids."
"Curtis has gone through lots of changes," explained Wilkerson. "It's great to see him mature and grow up. It's pretty awesome seeing him graduating now."
After each school year growing up, Curtis would have a new teacher, but the one thing that has remained the same were the school resource officers he had at school.
“They’ve really encouraged him to be himself and that it’s okay to talk to them about really anything," Dana said. "Those officers are the one constant that have been there every single year.”
While the officers will miss having their comedian at school, they know Curtis has big plans for his future.
"He's talking about when he runs for governor and when he runs for office and he's got the ideas to make it there," said Wilkerson.
"I know we believe he has a purpose and I look forward to seeing what he does once he graduates tomorrow," said Oswalt.
Curtis plans on going to Midlands Tech after graduating Irmo High School.