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Future Leaders Winner Excels In Math & Science, Inspires Others On The Autism Spectrum

DENVER (CBS4) – CBS4, along with PDC Energy, honors high school students who are excelling in science, technology, engineering or math, STEM. The Future Leaders winner gets $1,000, and a profile on CBS4 News. May's winner is Thomas Ankner.

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Ankner just graduated from Rock Canyon High School He's looking forward to the next chapter in his life, but he agreed to meet CBS4 at an older chapter.

"I'm glad that it's still sticking around, " he said of the mural he created at East High School.

Two years ago, Ankner designed and got a mural painted on a dilapidated wall at the school's athletic fields.

"I wanted to find a way to incorporate athletics into my Eagle Scout project," Ankner explained

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The project required him to design the art, including a tile "East Angels" logo, coordinate volunteers to help with the painting, and raise about $14,000. Ankner won the Donlie P. Smith Outstanding Eagle Scout Service Project Award.

"It's really amazing to me that I can have something that…it'll be here and standing, making an impact on the community," he told CBS4.

At both East and Rock Canyon High Schools, Ankner lettered all four years as wide receiver on the football field.

"What really kept me was the comradery, and the tactical side of football," he said.

It was math that he really exceled at in school.

"It's beautiful how something so simple can actually be complex deep down," Ankner said.

He's going to continue his education at Texas A&M University.

"I want to pursue electrical engineering and maybe work for a power company in the future and work on developing new ways to increase the resilience of the power grid," he explained.

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Ankner managed his Eagle Scout project, played four-years of football and excelled in math and science, all with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Now he works with the Doug Flutie Foundation to be an inspiration to other young people with autism.

His advice, "Don't let it define you. There are still other aspects of you that make you who you are."

LINK: Future Leaders Stories


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