KENMORE, N.Y. — Daybreak loves celebrating the "Great Kids" who make Western New York a better place to live.
During the month of May, 2 On Your side is celebrating the "Great Grads" who are finishing up their high school careers, and preparing to embark on a new chapter in their lives.
The first "Great Grad" featured in this series is Kenmore West High School senior Jacob Wallace, who has quietly battled life-threatening health conditions while becoming a powerhouse in the classroom.
"One of my teachers described me as a sponge, and that I just kind of absorb all this information," Jacob said.
He carries a 4.0 GPA and earned a 1470 on the SATs. He is a member of National Honor Society, Model UN, Masterminds, and peer mentoring. He even joined the tennis team senior year because he didn't want to graduate without playing a sport.
"It's best to do it now," Jacob said. "It's like what they say, 'the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is right now.' And I'm a beginner. I don't know. Maybe that's a good thing. The only way is up."
Those are impressive accomplishments for any teenager, but especially for one dealing with life-threatening health issues since the day he was born.
At birth Jacob developed a rare disease called hydrocephalus, or water on the brain.
"At 2 weeks old he had his first brain surgery to have a shunt put in," said his mother, Amy Wallace.
He's had 9 more brain surgeries since then, and he's always at risk of needing another.
"I could have to go in tomorrow for brain surgery or today and you don't know," said Jacob.
"I feel like he just keeps getting thrown curve balls and he just goes with it and doesn't complain," said his mother.
Another one of those curve balls was Type 1 diabetes. Jacob developed it 3 years ago and since then has had to monitor his glucose levels every minute of every day.
"I'm so impressed with the fact that he has not one day ever used one of his health concerns as an excuse for anything," said Sharon Schulz, the school nurse.
Because of his accomplishments in school and in life, Jacob was accepted early decision to Rochester Institute of Technology to study industrial design. RIT awarded Jacob nearly $150,000 in grants and scholarships.
He's the picture of success on the outside, but has dealt with struggles beneath the surface. So compassion is a lesson Jacob will carry with him to college and beyond.
"Both of my conditions - hydrocephalus and diabetes - are invisible to most people. And yet I have to go through this every single day. Just being more considerate of other people and just kind of reaching a mutual understanding."
Jacob has also participated in the local hydrocephalus walk to raise money and awareness for the rare disease, and the diabetes walk as well.
But clearly he doesn't intend for those illnesses to hold him back or slow him down as he heads to RIT in the fall. Jacob, congrats and good luck!