2016 RiSE Awards Autism Winner

This award is for $2500.00 payable to the college the winner enrolls in the fall of 2016. 


Ronald “Andy” Smithwick

Stratford High School

Goose Creek, S.C.

Already accepted to Clemson University and University of South Carolina, Andy has a goal in mind and is unstoppable. As a child, Andy knew he was “different”; change was difficult for him as were communication and social skills. His family was “active” on military duty and moving quite often and that made him put his challenges to the test.

In middle school Andy received the diagnosis of Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, receptive language disorder, OCD and Tourette’s syndrome. Andy states this diagnosis helped his family interact with him more successfully and lead them to seek social therapy to “help his interactions with others”. His public school put together a 504 plan and introduced him to more accelerated classes while using his accommodations.

Moving to Stratford High School in 9th grade was a pivotal time in his education. Andy unexpectedly found refuge with his special needs teacher, Mrs. Staller. As Andy explains she “crafted accommodations that lead to discovering his true potential”. This confidence and the school environment lead Andy to begin advocating his educational needs and branching out socially. He is currently is on the cross-country team, track team, and in the National Latin Honors Society. He attended many lectures that his school provided for life skills that he feels are helpful for him going forth, these lectures were focused on finances, healthy lifestyles and understand and accepting students with disabilities.

Andy’s passion for Biomedical Science lead him to attend a summer program at Clemson University and he has been a member of the Biomedical Science Program during high school. Andy plans on studying this field in college and hopes to pursue a PhD in the future. Ranked 26th out of 386 in his senior class and maintaining a 4.37 weighted GPA, we know Andy is on his way! Congrats Andy!!




RiSE Awards Autism Honorable Mentions:

These awards will be for $500.00 paid to the school they enroll in the fall of 2016.


  1. Clayton Eason                                            Lyndhurst, Ohio
  2. Megan Kirkpatrick                                    Fort Worth, Texas
  3. Alfred Tignonsini                                      Yonkers, New York
  4. Keegan Hite                                                Melrose, MA.



Highlight of a RiSE Awards Autism Honorable Mention Award Winner:

Keegan Hite:


Although Keegan received his diagnosis of ASD at the age of 4, his family did not share this with him until later in his teenage years. According to Keegan, his mother emphasized his “unique way of thinking” which led Keegan to feel his differences were his “silver lining of life”.

Keegan’s story involves many challenges and many successes. His senior year was spent in “dual enrollment” in a community college and this helped him determine his future goals of attending a four-year college and to study law in the Boston area. This is quite an achievement after being a student that required a one on one classroom aide when he began high school due to his learning differences, Tourette’s syndrome and anxiety disorder. Like many ASD students, co occurring diagnoses are often present and have to be addressed in order to thrive both in school as well as social situations.

According to Keegan’s counselor, Cheryl Trevisani at Melrose High School, Keegan has unlimited potential and an intellectual curiosity that is not often seen. She described his love of learning and resilience coupled with gratitude and humility as qualities that set him apart.

While reading Keegan’s RiSE application, it was very apparent that his family and support team guided his path with encouragement and thoughtful, beneficial recommendations. The evaluating education service providers addressed his emotional areas, school goals and need for strong life skills to be ready to be his best self at college. These recommendations as well as the family’s follow through showed us at RiSE that Keegan has the best chance to succeed and we are excited to watch his launch to adulthood. Keep us posted on your success Keegan!!