PASADENA (CBSLA.com) — A Pasadena high school student with attention deficit disorder is using the power of the spoken word to break down barriers.
Nick Craft knows something about the difficulty many teens have fitting in at school.
But the teenager found his way on the debate and speech teams his junior year at Pasadena's Maranatha High School, and has now overcome his learning challenges to become a champion.
"I'm personally challenged with memorizing and preparing my speech material," Nick told KCAL9's Suzie Suh. "Engaging in discussion and debate, really just helped my learning in general."
It turned out the debate and speech teams were just what Nick needed.
His parents, Dwight and Terri Craft, say their journey began when Nick was five, and doctors revealed he wasn't just another rambunctious kid.
"He had been having some issues in school focusing. Attention issues. Kind of acting out a little bit," Terri said. "Now we know why he's been acting this way or he's been having these challenges. So I kind of went into, 'What do we need to do now?'"
According to the ADD Association, 4 to 6 percent of the U.S. population has ADD.
But the Crafts admit they struggled to get others to understand their son's needs.
"When you say disability, people think he's not that smart. He's as smart as anyone," Dwight said.
"Having people understand - that's the biggest part because a lot of people either they don't think it's a real condition or they think maybe he can just try harder. That's like telling an alcoholic, 'Maybe you can just have one drink.' It's not something he can control."
For Nick, fighting through ADD was hard work. His parents' sole focus became helping him leap over the hurdles waiting ahead.
"For a period of time he worked with a writing specialist. And he hated going to her. He would go kicking and screaming, 'Why do I have to do this?' Well there were times when I wanted to pull my hair out, and I'm sure some of his teachers did too," Terri recalled.
But for Nick's teacher and coach, witnessing his transformation was special.
"To watch him grow and develop - to see him win at the end of his senior year," Maranatha speech-debate teacher Patrick Mesisca smiled.
Nick has now taken home three awards this year alone - not bad for a boy who once struggled just to stay focused.
"It's had such an impact on my life," Nick said.
He hopes his work inspires others.
"I think my success is me really growing as a person. It's really helped me be a part of some kind of community. It's one of the best communities I think on campus - because I think we're the best at communicating," he said.
His parents couldn't be more proud.
"It's amazing. I am so proud of him. I can't even describe the difference. Its just incredible," Dwight said. "I think his future is unlimited. I think he can do anything he wants to do."
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