By Wakisha Bailey

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As the school year comes to an end, we must also say goodbye to some of our favorite mascots. In this installment of Focusing on the Future, Wakisha Bailey introduces us to a student who overcame some of his own challenges by bringing joy to others.  

The Martin Luther King High School cougar mascot is the most recognizable face in the school. He doesn’t have to say much to get students dancing.

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Or posing for a selfie.  

Student On Autism Spectrum Brought Joy To Others As Martin Luther King High School's Mascot

But for some teachers like PennySue Gold-Laster, behind the fierce cougar is a gentle, kind student, Paul Anderson.  

“I like to high five and cheer people up,” Anderson said.

 WB: “Did you have to train for that position? 

Anderson: “No, not exactly.”

For Anderson, who is on the autism spectrum, being a mascot comes easy, unlike verbal communication.  

“I’ve been working with Paul since he was in the ninth grade and now he’s in 12th,” Gold-Laster said.  

Student On Autism Spectrum Brought Joy To Others As Martin Luther King High School's Mascot

“We work on speech stuff and everything like language, how to communicate and other things,” Anderson said.  

Gold-Laster: “What were some of the things she discussed this year?”

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Anderson: “She discussed things like people with disability and different languages and stuff.”

Anderon receives support to help with his speech and social skills.  

“We need in this Philadelphia area from the school district itself, we need to have lots of slots so that all the students who graduate have somewhere to go,” Gold-Laster said.  

In Anderson’s senior year with the help of the school district, he was accepted into Project SEARCH, a vocational program at Drexel University that helps young adults with autism find a job. 

“He’s had many opportunities,” Gold-Laster said. “The Reading Terminal where he does some type of activities. Also at the 30th Street station where he directs people, looks at brochures, and directs them what bus to take. He also works in the vocational suite, which is housed here at Martin Luther King downstairs, sorting, packing, preparing.”  

Student On Autism Spectrum Brought Joy To Others As Martin Luther King High School's Mascot

And let’s not forget his senior prom. But his most memorable job for the past two years has been representing for the MLK Cougars.  

Until now. 

We surprised Anderson with another lovable Philadelphia mascot – the Phillie Phanatic. The Phantic came along to share some secrets of the trade and to wish him the best of luck as he focuses on the future.

Now, MLK is on the search for their new mascot. As for Anderson, he hopes to land a job in technology but he also enjoys working at a grocery store. 

Know an outstanding high school senior that deserves recognition? Let us know by completing the form below and we may select the student to be featured in our “Focusing on the Future” series. 

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Wakisha Bailey