VALDOSTA -- Despite being labeled an "exceptional child," Trevor Fulton, 18, has dreams and plans for the future just like his "regular" and "gifted" schoolmates.

"I feel like I can do anything if I work hard," said the Valdosta High School senior. "Most of the time, I have to work harder than everyone else, but that's OK. It does not really bother me. I just do it."

And it's all about to pay off. Fulton will graduate from high school on Friday, May 23, during a 7 p.m. ceremony in Valdosta State University's Physical Education Complex.

"I am really excited about that," he said, smiling.

Like his fellow graduates, that one moment will mark a milestone in Fulton's life.

"I really want to get a job at the Super Wal-Mart," he said, describing a portion of his future plans. "Not the regular Wal-Mart. The Super Wal-Mart."

Fulton sees himself enhancing the store's appearance by straightening shelves and keeping them well-stocked and assisting customers.

Since October 2002, Fulton has been working in a similar capacity on a part-time basis at Mr. B's Market on West Hill Avenue.

"I keep things real neat, bag groceries, and help the customers," he said. "Sometimes I get tips from them. It's nice because they think I've done a good job. I always try to do a good job. I like helping other people."

Fulton also dreams of paying his own bills and having a family complete with a loving wife and four energetic children. Plus, he wants a three-bedroom house with a huge back yard.

"I want to be able to plant flowers and cut grass," Fulton continues, putting into words the dreams that once resided only inside his head. "I want one of those tables with the hole in the middle and an umbrella and chairs (a patio set). I want to be able to play with my kids in the back yard."

And he dreams of driving his own pickup truck

"I know all about checking the oil and the other fluid levels and putting gas in it," he said, reflecting his ability to be responsible.

But most of all Fulton just wants to be happy.

"I like to be happy," he said. "I like to be in a good mood. I hope I am always happy."

Hazel Keith, Related Vocation Instruction/High School/High Tech/Community Based Instruction coordinator at VHS, said many times students with labels of any kind get singled out so much that resentment can build up and cause the student to forget that they can achieve and have an active role in society. Such is not the case with Fulton, who, she said, has been working hard to learn a variety of skills which will enable him to become an adult with many options available to him in work, recreation, and in other life activities.

"Trevor works very hard," said Jo-Ann Adams, VHS art teacher. "He truly enjoys whatever he's doing and is proud of everything he accomplishes. And he should be."

Watching Fulton, it's difficult to locate the label he wears upon his chest like a scarlet letter. In many ways, he's no different from his schoolmates. He likes to watch movies, dance, make people laugh, and play sports. He has hopes, dreams, and plans for the future. He has successes and failures, good days and bad.

Maybe the one thing that sets him apart from his schoolmates is his inability to be knocked down. No matter what life throws his way, Fulton refuses to throw in the towel and give up.

"I am proud of myself everyday," Fulton said.

To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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