Student with disability becomes valedictorian

Tampa, Florida -- It's graduation season and students around the Tampa Bay area will be moving on up. One Hillsborough High School student isn't letting a disability stop him from surpassing expectations and reaching the top.

When you drive past 18-year-old Samuel Russell's home, it's clear where this student is headed. There is a banner that says he is headed to Princeton. Russell says, "There's very little that can't be overcome with hard work and persistence."

His mother, Cheryl, says, "He never ceases to amaze me." She's a proud mom for good reason. If you look at this student's bedroom, there are trophies everywhere, even in the closest, because there's nowhere else to put them. Most are for chess and math -- things that came easy to Russell.

But it was around that same time that Russell learned other things weren't as easy. He says, "I have hearing loss and I couldn't speak English until I was 6. That's not because I could speak another language. [I] just couldn't speak at all until I was 6."

His parents knew a lot sooner. They say as a toddler he would get on the floor and cry and cry. His mother says, out of frustration, she cried as much as he did.

But the family says with hard work, speech coaches, and hearing aids came much success.

The latest honor: Valedictorian 2014.

Cheryl says, "When he got the official letter, we were all screaming, dancing ... whipping it up."

Graduation for Russell and the rest of Hillsborough High School is tomorrow. According to his mother, he has a GPA of 9.64 -- the highest ever recorded at his school. To share your own graduation photos, log onto Facebook and "LIKE" WTSP! We'd love to see them.


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