A SEA of blue washed over Nowra High School on Wednesday as its student representative council staged a fund-raising event to increase awareness about autism.
The event coincided with World Autism Day, with the school taking part in the Autism Speaks Light It Up Blue campaign.
For a gold coin donation students were able to attend school out of uniform, as long they wore blue.
Year 12 student Gavin Walker, who has autism, showed enormous courage to stand up in front of his school community and explain his affliction.
“It was about trying to explain to students what autism is and how it affects you,” he said.
Gavin is believed to be only the second autism student to complete mainstream schooling at Nowra High.
“I found out late last year there was a World Autism Day and I thought it would be great to stage some sort of event to bring the condition into focus within the school,” he said.
“A lot of people including my fellow students don’t know a lot about autism and I just hope by doing this they may understand it better.
“I want to make a difference; I want people to know it is not a burden to be autistic.
“Sure, there are some burdening effects at times but I’m proud to have autism and be the person I have become.
“It’s just who I am.
“It has been a tough journey. I had a lot of trouble at primary school but with the support of my mother we have worked through a lot of things.
“I never expected I would stand up in front of the whole school and talk about my condition – it’s something I never thought I would be able to do.
“It’s a big thing for me.
“But it’s a passion of mine to try to spread the message.”
The 17-year-old dreams of becoming a pastry cook, and aims to attend TAFE next year to hopefully fulfil his ambition.
“I struggle with concentration and attention at times but I have tried to fit in and try to be normal but I do have trouble with that at times,” he said.
“I know I can be annoying but that’s just the way I am.”
School captain Ben Standen said he was proud of his fellow year 12 student for showing the courage to stand in front of his peers and talk about his condition.
“Gavin is extremely brave and when he raised the idea with us of the SRC having a blue day for autism, we thought it was a great idea,” he said.
Principal Angela Byron was proud of her students.
“This was student-driven. The students at Nowra High have a strong sense of social justice and strong social conscience,” she said.
“They come to us to stage such events as they care and want to make a difference.
“They want to try to change things and as a principal I couldn’t be more proud.”