Genuine personality and positive attitude spread joy
When Antawaun Scott walks the halls of Western High School, he stops at least once to say hello to someone. But stopping just once would be a rare occasion.
He usually can’t walk a few steps without hearing “Hey Antawaun!” or someone stopping to give him a hug, a high-five or a handshake.
But the greetings aren’t just from his fellow students. It’s from the teachers, janitors, administrators, coaches and cafeteria workers.
“I’m funny, famous, having fun and making friends,” Antawaun self-described himself.
And the 18-year-old senior has made a lot of friends at Western, where he has attended since kindergarten. In fact, just about everyone at the school is his friend. He knows the first and last names of everyone who stops to say hi or give him a high-five.
“I think he could walk down to the middle school and probably say most of those guys’ names,” said Lane Eubank, Antawaun’s friend and fellow senior. “I’m almost positive.”
Antawaun has cognitive disabilities, and that’s led to some struggles in the classroom. His academic and social abilities are not on the same level as his same-aged peers.
But according to Western High School special education teacher Nicky Rodman, it doesn’t mean he can’t work hard or follow directions. It hasn’t hindered the potential he has. And it’s given him a special ability to see the good in people, she said.
“There’s this awesome innocence about him that sees the best in everybody,” Rodman said. “He loves the attention that people give him and people love to give him attention because he is so positive. You never really see him in a bad mood.”
During football and basketball games, Antawaun worked as the manager for Western’s teams and made sure to hype up the crowd on the sidelines during games. In the locker rooms, he was encouraging the athletes.
“I like to help them keep going so they can get better and stronger,” Antawaun said. “That way we can all win.”
When his classmates see Antawaun’s signature grin spread across his face, it’s hard for them to not feel uplifted. His friends say his energy is contagious.
“I’ve never seen someone talk to Antawaun and not be happy,” said Luke Lechner, a friend and fellow senior. “He just always does something to make you smile. It makes your day better. Always.”
Eubank agreed. He said he’s never seen Antawaun without a smile on his face.
“Every time he sees me, he’s like ‘What’s up Lane?!’ as loud as he can and you can hear it eight classrooms down the hallway,” he said. “Even when I’m having a bad day, he’ll say ‘What’s up Lane-train?!’ It’s awesome.”
Lechner, Eubank and Antawaun are part of Western’s unified track team, which includes those with and without intellectual disabilities. For the past three years, Antawaun has competed in the long jump, 4×100 relay, and the 100, 200 and 400 meter dashes.
“Track, it’s so fun,” Antawaun said. “I like to run.”
And just like in the hallway, no one can resist giving Antawaun a high five, hug or saying hello as he warms up on the track before practices.
Antawaun follows each interaction with something like “She’s so nice” or “he’s a great guy,” after they pass by.
“I like to say hi to them because I want to make friends, cause that’s what I like doing,” Antawaun said. “It’s important to be nice because you have to be friendly. I’m always nice. I’m never mean.”
Eubank said it’s rare to see someone like Antawaun, who has a genuine, heartfelt greeting for every person he comes across.
“It’s not something that you see every day,” he said. “It’s something that’s few and far between in most kids today. Most kids nowadays stick to their own friend group, but Antawaun tries to get out and talk to everybody. He doesn’t care who you are. He doesn’t care who you’re friends with. He’s just gonna talk to you if he wants to talk to you.”
At Western’s graduation ceremony, Antawaun will receive a certificate of completion and plans to join the workforce. His ideal job would be to work at a gym.
“Me, I’m not going to college,” he said. “Nah, not for me. Just going to graduate and get a job. Cause I need the money.”
But he will miss high school. He’ll miss the field trips, his friends, his classes and his teachers.
And his friends will miss him just as much. They joke that video cameras need to be installed on each corner of the school’s hallway just so Antawaun can still talk to people and say “Hey guys, what’s up?”
“He’s just made life fun,” Eubank said. “He’s somebody you see and you’re like, ‘It’s Antawaun. What’s coming next?'”