UPDATE: Student living with autism spectrum disorder graduates from Wasco High School as valedictorian

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UPDATE (5/27): Luis Luna graduated from Wasco High School and the Wonderful Agriculture Career Prep Program on Thursday with honors and as valedictorian. He gave a moving speech for his fellow graduates.

“Remember, no matter how hard life may get for you, you can overcome those challenges and prevail no matter who you are or what you want to do in life,” Luna said in his graduation speech.

“May the fruit of their hard labor bring them happiness. I bid them all farewell and good luck in whatever path that they would choose for themselves, thank you.”


UPDATE (5/25): Luis Luna has been named valedictorian of his graduating class.

Luna will graduate with the Class of 2021 at Wasco High School’s football field on Thursday.


WASCO, Calif. (KGET) — This is the last week Luis Luna will show up to class as a student at Wasco High School. Next week, he will graduate from Wasco High and from the Wonderful Agriculture Career Prep Program with honors.

But getting to this point was no easy task.

“Some of the symptoms I have include fidgeting a lot, moving my body parts around, [moving my] fingers, my feet without me noticing. Stand around. In my own thoughts and imagination,” said Luna, describing what it’s been like to be a person on the Autism Spectrum Disorder — a condition different for everyone, but one that often is characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors and communication.

The symptoms, per Luna, have led to challenges in life, but he never gave up and chose to focus on the positives.

“Autism — I don’t really see it as a disability — I see it as a special trait,” he said, noting it has led to much of his success, including a 4.38 GPA.

But beyond the academic achievement, educators on campus say Luna stands out for his character.

“Boy, he’s really opened our eyes to sky is the limit,” said David Abernathy, Wonderful Agriculture Career Prep coordinator at Wasco High School. “He is super hardworking, and super intelligent as well,” Abernathy continued.

Katie Moreno, Wasco High School Academic Decathlon coach and teacher on special assignment, echoed similar sentiment.

“He will do whatever he needs to do to understand what’s happening, and he doesn’t let his limitations get him down,” she said.

When Luna was first diagnosed, some medical experts said it was possible he would never learn to speak, per his mother Judith.

“I mean, just the struggles since he was a kid…I went through so much with him getting him therapy,” she said. “Having to know your own kid is not going to be verbal and me trying to find out and fighting so hard to get the help ‘I know my kid could talk and I know he’s going to talk.’

Eventually, Luna learned to speak. Soon, he will embark on the next chapter of his life at UC Davis where he plans to study biology.

“By me going to UC Davis, I hope to get a better view of the world around me, to better understand it. That way, not only can I fit in better to it, but change it for the better,” he said.

“I can’t explain how proud I am,” Judith said. “All of the excitement comes out of me.”

When asked about his message to others who may be facing challenges in life, Luna said “no matter what you have, no matter what disability — physical or mental — you still have the potential to do great things, to become part of society, and be able to provide a helping hand towards other people.”

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