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Gibbs High School student makes a difference

St. Petersburg, Florida -- Gibbs High School reading teacher Jennifer Volpe will tell you every student is special.

"I believe every student is a shining star," said Volpe.

But some stars shine brighter. Volpe said that's 16-year-old Robert Gordon Jr. and that's why she wrote to 10 News about her student as someone making a difference.

"Positive, he's so wonderfully positive. He has a smile on his face regularly, there's a determination and dedication there you don't' see in some adults," said Volpe.

And once you get to know him you too won't see it either.

"In the classroom I don't see it and he doesn't make it evident that it makes him struggle," said Volpe about Robert and his wheelchair. "He goes beyond that and that's a role model right there."

"Growing up with Spina Bifida you have to deal with diversity and very judgmental people," said Robert. "There's more to life than being in a wheelchair being in a wheel chair is just a state of mind is what I say."

It's a state of mind, that's out of mind, when the 16-year-old is on the basketball court. Robert plays for the National Wheelchair Basketball Association's Tampa Bay Strong Dogs the Division 3 men's team ranked third in the nation.

"I want to succeed I want to make 10 points, I want to make 20 points, everyday is a challenge to me," said Robert. "When I am NWBA's in the tournaments I feel so much love so much appreciation from people then in my regular day life."

Robert said that's because off the court people only notice it.

"Look at me as Robert the want to be Paralympian, Robert that at 16 is playing on the men's team or Robert that wants to study finance in college. Don't look at me as Robert, the person in the wheelchair. Yeah, I am in a wheelchair but at the same time I have a heart it beats. You should love me for who I am not for what I am in," said Robert.

"Your greatest challenges can be your greatest strengths and that's what he's allowed me to see within myself and within my students," Volpe said of her student.

Robert hopes to one day start a foundation to help other athletic students in wheelchairs.


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