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Cool Kid helps kids with autism in school improve grades, make more friends

November 3, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
This week's "Cool Kid" is a true ambassador. This teen has taken a personal mission to the global level.

Zak Kukoff formed an organization called Autism Ambassadors to bring together teachers and students with other students who have autism. His reason was a deeply personal one.

"Autism Ambassadors really came up as a result of me watching my cousin struggle to make friends in school," says Zak.

Zak has helped design a curriculum that does more than just put students together. His goal is to help all the kids actually learn how to make the most of their time together.

"We actually teach typical students how to make friends with students with autism," says Zak. "And we're going to teach students with autism social, emotional and academic skills."

And he's reached out, creating Autism Ambassadors all over the world. It's an ambitious goal, but one that Zak feels is important.

"We actually have students all across the country, all across the globe, who contribute modules, we call them -- lesson plans -- about things they see every day that students struggle with," says Zak. "And then we have our psychologists come in and make sure they're accurate and clean them up a little bit."

Lots of work is involved to make Autism Ambassadors successful. But the payoff is worth it.

"There's a great emotional feeling, this fantastic feeling you get," says Zak. "And that's what pushes you to keep volunteering. Because I think the more students you see, who now are going to be comfortable, who for the first time have friends in school. That's that feeling that keeps you going."

Zak Kukoff is teaching all students that everyone can and should be included in the total school experience. That makes Zak our "Cool Kid."

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