Cheektowaga Teen's Tough Climb to the Top of the Class

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. -- When Dylan Delgado was just five years old, he set the goal to one day graduate at the top of his class. Thirteen years later, he achieved that goal when he gave his valedictorian speech.

The Cheektowaga Central senior overcame a lot of obstacles. As a young child, he was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. His mom Cindi says he was kicked out of kindergarten. The family was told Dylan needed to be put in special classes.

With the help of aides, Dylan took classes with all the other children, and when all the grades were tallied, he finished at number one in the class with a weighted average score of 101.62.

"It was just constant, always working with Dylan, never giving up," Cindi said. "But it was hard. Sometimes you did want to give up."

Dylan was understandably nervous about giving the valedictory address in front of so many people, but the crowd hung on his every word.

"I have autism, but autism doesn't have me," Dylan said in the speech.

"I would like to thank you, my fellow graduates, for accepting me for who I am, quirks and all," he added.

The speech was uplifting, but also heartbreaking.

Dylan referred to the empty seat beside his mom, filled only with mementos and a picture of his stepdad Mike.

"He was the only dad that I knew," Dylan told 2 On Your Side.

"They were just always best buds together," Cindi said, wiping away tears.

Just a few weeks ago, and days before prom, Mike suffered from a massive heart attack and died. He never got to see Dylan walk across the stage at graduation.

"We worked so hard together, as a team, to do this," Cindi said. "And just to be alone, him not being there next to me, it was hard," she said.

Dylan and Mike both liked music, especially Pink Floyd. They had planned to perform "Wish You Were Here" together but never got the chance before Mike's passing.

The lyrics of the song take on new meaning now.

"I wish he was here," Dylan said.

If Mike had been there, there's no doubt he would have been a proud parent. After all, how often does a graduation speech bring the crowd to its feet.

"I really was not expecting that," Dylan said of the standing ovation.

"It was great," Cindi added. "It was wonderful."

Cindi hopes Dylan's story can show all parents that a child can overcome any disability or challenge. She points out Dylan -- the young boy kicked out of his kindergarten class -- grew up to finish at the top of his class.

Dylan now plans to attend the University at Buffalo and major in physics and mathematics.


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