When I graduated from high school, our valedictorian was a relative newcomer to the area. Michael moved to our community at the start of eighth grade and was initially seen as an outsider. He did not look or talk or dress like most of the other kids in our school. He clearly was incredibly bright, and friendly to a fault, but it is difficult to transition into a group of people who have known each other their own lives, especially when something about you is different. In the case of Michael, just about everything was different, including the size of his heart.

Michael was not only a minority in race, but came from a different side of the tracks than most of the people in our school. His parents were working class and you could tell based on his fashion, his taking the bus to school, and the fact that he worked a paper route before school, and as a gas station attendant and tutor after school ended. If his way of life set him apart to some degree, physically, in addition to a receding hairline by the age of 16, he wore a hearing aid, and that too made him different.

None of Mike's distinguishing features are a reason to like or dislike him. However, teenagers are judgmental and cruel. Particularly because of the hearing aid sometimes narrow-minded students would mock Michael. Interestingly, over the course of a year or two, because of his intelligence, ability to clearly see a situation, and great patience the tide began to turn.

Michael got a hearing aid when he was five years old. Having lived with it his entire life he knew every comment that could be made. Instead of becoming angry when a childish student cave has a hard time, he found ways to combat the teasing. He would tease back, punching fun at a student's grades, or mock the fact that they could not come up with an insult that was had not heard before. The bolder he got the more other students would come to his defense. Simply put, making fun of him become uncool.

Furthermore, Michael became the student in class who classmates could depend on helping them out, or protesting a homework assignment that involved an unofficial amount of work. He ran for student body treasurer and was unopposed since nobody thought that they could beat him. He ended up in the homecoming court.

Michael is just one person. Many people get made fun of and never recover. However, he is a great example of someone who made lemonade out of lemons. He ended up going to an Ivy League college and now is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. He is well liked, respected, aware of himself and those around him, and fair to a fault. We are all better for encountering him.