Meeting challenges helped student see future

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 5, 2013

SPENCER — To describe how it feels to be graduating this Saturday, North Rowan High School senior Levi Sherrill said he’s tempted to quote the “Star Trek Enterprise” theme song.
“It’s been a long road / Getting from there to here / It’s been a long time / But my time is finally near.”
High school can seem like a tough journey to many students, but for Sherrill, the image is especially meaningful. He has Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism which he said affects his ability to socialize and make friends. He also has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which makes it hard for him to stay focused on his work.
“I think that with my parents’ help and my medication, I have outgrown these,” Sherrill said. “It’s because of the support and effects of my medicine, and support from my parents, of course.”
He listed several friends, including some he has known since middle or elementary school, who will be parting ways with him after graduation. “It feels great, but kind of depressing at the same time,” Sherrill said. “It has been a very long and challenging road, but I finally traversed it and I am pleased with the result.”
Sherrill will be attending the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he wants to study the biology of mammals. “I relate to them more than anything else, because after all, I am a mammal,” he said.
His family plans to move to Mint Hill, which will allow him to commute back and forth from the college.
Sherrill said he still hasn’t decided on a career path. “I do wish I could get a career I will love to death,” he said. “It’s like the saying, ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ Of course, I’m still waiting for the perfect girl, let alone the perfect job. I’m also waiting for first contact, but I don’t think I can do anything to speed that up.”
Sherrill shows his dry sense of humor through little remarks like these. In conversation, he sometimes veers onto a detailed tangent before stopping himself with an apologetic, “But that’s rather beside the point.”
Like many other teenagers, Sherrill likes to watch TV and use his iPad and iPhone in his spare time.
A couple of years ago, he took part in a Communities In Schools tutoring program during the summer. That experience was OK, Sherrill said, but not as much fun as the college internship program he participated in last year at the Florida Institute of Technology.
“It basically gave kids nearing the end of their high school days a taste of the whole college experience,” he said. “My mom called me the first week and asked if I wanted her to come early and pick me up. I said, ‘No, I want to stick it out. And that’s what I did — I stuck it out.’ It was fun, overall.”
Bill Tenborg, Sherrill’s counselor, said he thinks Sherrill will grow and thrive in a college environment. “He can expand out to where his interests are,” Tenborg said. “He’s strong enough academically for it. He’s a good student.”
“I think Levi has had quite a challenge, and he’s stood up to it very well,” Tenborg said. “He’s been very successful. I know his mother is proud of him, and I think everybody at the high school is proud of him.”
Sherrill said the occupational therapist and assistants at North Rowan played a big part in helping him get to graduation. “If it weren’t for them, I probably would’ve been held back,” Sherrill said. “It has been a challenge. But hey, I did it.”

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.