High school is a tough time for a lot of people, but when you have autism and are also painfully shy, it can be an unbelievably challenging four years.
That's how it used to be for Caleb Popejoy, a student at Nevada High School in central Iowa. Once a bashful teen who could barely look people in the eye or say his name, Popejoy is now one of the most popular kids in his class thanks to a special job he took on: that of Cubbie, the school mascot.
How, you ask, does a shy teen get in front of crowds at football games and lead boisterous pep rallies? Well, the costume he's in--that of a giant, fuzzy bear--helps, as does some assistance from the cheerleaders who initially helped him get into the spirit. But he quickly mastered his role, and now loves giving hugs to fans, posing for pics, and greeting the many new friends he's made since starting the gig.
"All the kids have been so supportive," his mom, Lana, told Today. "We can't go anywhere around town without everyone wanting to talk to him."
And as for Caleb, shown above with his parents on the school's Senior Night? "I feel a lot happier now," he said.
Three cheers for that!