For the love of technology: Lindhurst freshman accepted to attend prestigious event
Appeal-Democrat - 5/15/2018
May 15--Lindhurst High School freshman Joseph Hagerman IV has a love for technology. His goal is to create a video game about autism so others can understand what he and many others go through on a daily basis.
Cassandra Hagerman said her son has a difficult time expressing his feelings as most other kids do because of his autism. At the same time, he excels in the classroom, she said.
Joseph said his autism, as well as his other medical conditions like Sensory Processing Disorder, OCD and food allergies, have prevented him from being invited to anything special before.
That's why, when he got word that he was nominated and accepted to attend the "Congress of Science and Technology Leaders" event in Massachusetts next month, he was beyond excited. Same with his mom.
"I was in shock," Cassandra said. "Due to his autism, he hasn't really been invited to anything before. I had to go through the paperwork to make sure they accepted students with disabilities. When I called and said he was autistic, they were more than welcoming and asked what accommodations he would need. That's the first time I've ever seen my child that excited over anything."
The Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders event is an honors program for high school students who have a love for science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).
The purpose of the three-day event is to inspire and motivate some of the top students in the country to follow that passion and to provide resources on how to achieve their goals.
"Focused, bright and determined students like Joseph Hagerman IV are our future and he deserves all the mentoring and guidance we can give him," said Richard Rossi, executive director of the National Academy of Future Scientist and Technologies, in a press release.
He was even nominated to represent Lindhurst at the event by Dr. John C. Mather, a Nobel Prize winner in Physics.
"He's a great kid," said Lindhurst Principal Bob Eckardt. "It's a fantastic opportunity. We are happy that he got selected and proud to see him go."
The road to Massachusetts
Joseph worked hard to qualify for the event, maintaining a 3.5+ GPA throughout his schooling career, and made the Dean's list at Lindhurst in his first semester, his parents said.
He said he wanted to attend the event because of his love for computers, video games and technology.
"I feel that I have been able to overcome difficulties in my life to achieve something I can be proud of," Joseph said. "Being invited to this makes me gain confidence in myself."
However, the trip isn't cheap, likely costing around $6,000 for travel, hotel, food and to attend. His parents each raised some money to send him, but it wasn't enough. So, Joseph decided he would collect and recycle cans and bottles.
"I told him I wanted to put a fundraiser together for him, but he said he wanted to earn the money himself. He came up with the idea of collecting bottles and cans. His first trip to the recycling center, he earned almost $80 dollars," Cassandra said.
Whatever isn't made by recycling, Cassandra is hoping to raise via a GoFundMe campaign. The fundraising goal is set at $2,000 -- it has raised nearly half in one month so far -- and those funds will help cover the remaining costs for travel, food and hotel accommodations.
The final push
The acceptance to the event has inspired him to continue working hard, he said. He said it has shown him that nothing is impossible.
"It just comes to show that you can achieve anything when you put your mind to it," he said.
He has continued to collect recyclables in hopes of sending himself to the event.
The family is still short about $1,000 with a little over a month to get everything in order. Cassandra said anyone interested in helping can do so by donating to the GoFundMe campaign (https://uk.gofundme.com/autistic-teen039s-rare-oppurtunity) or by dropping off some cans and bottles for Joseph to recycle. Those looking to help can contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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