Autism left Andrese Duke, 13, shy and often isolated from his classmates, but that all changed when he took on the role of his school’s mascot.
For the last five months, the Grand Blanc, Mich. seventh grader has secretly transformed himself into Victor E. Bobcat for school pep rallies where he dances and gives high-fives to pump up fellow students.
Only one friend is in on the secret that Duke is the man behind the mask, but the boost he gets from hyping up his peers has extended beyond his time in costume.
“This has impacted his confidence and increased his social ability in the classroom with students,” special education teacher Raymond Haden told MLive.
Since assuming the mascot role, Duke’s friend Stephen Nelson told the newspaper that the middle schooler is now making friends and feeling popular.
Moreover, Duke’s mom said the job has given her son a sense of purpose and responsibility.