2017 RiSE Awards Autism Award Winners, $2500.00

Sullivan Newsom

Owings, MD.

Sully, as his friends call him, has always had a passion for sea life. As a child, he was eager to learn about the species of fish but too young to scuba dive, so he began to learn to fish as a sport. He enjoyed it so much that it lead to spending the summer learning to fly fish at a camp. This hobby proved to be a challenge that keep his focus and interest as well as he found it to be a relaxing escape since he could only keep his mind on the water and the line. This was especially comforting after his diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD and anxiety. Many students have these diagnoses co-currently and finding an enjoyable interest to thrive at can seem to be the best-case scenario.

Finding fly fishing along with a mainstream academic school that encouraged and embraced his skills has helped Sully overcome his feelings of being different and has encouraged his “passionate intensity” for learning, says Dematha Catholic High School English Teacher, Mr. Paul T. Clark.

According to Clark, Sully’s unique “approach to the world around him is incredibly earnest”. We at RiSE can see this in his self-awareness, his natural ability as a writer and his terrific sense of humor.

Sully is heading to college to study Marine Biology at St. Mary’s College in Maryland and we know he will make an impact in whichever path he chooses!


David Hewett

Woodinville, WA.

This spring, RiSE added a second $2500.00 Award to RiSE Awards Autism after receiving an unexpected grant (Thank you!) and we are able to award David!

David caught the eye of all the judges with his description of sitting in the back of 4th grade, bored and unchallenged.  (He said he had to prop his eyes open!). During that time, he was kept from doing fun activites like the other students, because his teachers mistakenly thought he was being defiant or stubborn. He, unknowingly to the teachers at that time, was incredibly gifted and struggling with learning differences ( Executive Function Deficits, Autism, Dysgraphia).

The irony is that at home, as the years passed David began teaching himself Japanese, piano and programming languages. He found a teacher that noticed his intelligence. His description to RiSE was that the “enlightened teacher took a closer look in his eyes and noticed the tiny sparks still glowing in my eyes”. This glow must have been his love of learning and this was the turning point for change.

His parents began to advocate on his behalf. Between their hard work, finding a special  teacher (Ms. O’Brien) who had a vast knowledge of LD and his school’s ability to find strategies that encouraged his talents (tutoring and computers) David gained the needed confidence to show what his true potential was. This combination of looking outside the box spurred the idea to attend a community college to take courses that he was interested in and remarkably, this is where he succeeded.

David was able to take Calculus (and now tutors general eduation high school peers that are taking AP Calculus ) and additional classes, while still enrolled in high school.  His professor remarked that David was one of the top 5 students he had the privilege to teach in his teaching career, not because of his 4.0 but because of his motivation, enthusiasm and hard work. Additionally, David scored in the top 1% nationwide for the ACT and SAT and is in the National Honors Society. He is now applying to Stanford, Princeton and was accepted at University of Washington. This is a long way for this student to come!

This journey helps explain why David is eager to give back. He often speaks publicly to encourage and explain the teenage brain and strategies to encourage younger students to follow his lead. One of the students he spoke to regarding LD, has refered to him as their HERO and we can see why!

Congrats David! Keep us updated on your speeches and PowerPoints, we would love to share your research through RiSE.


2017 RiSE Awards Autism Honorable Mentions, $500.00

Yorel Drane

Gigi Epstein

Brett Voth