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Originally published Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Class of 2009 | Andy Boes, Liberty High School: 'A ton of heart' and a message about autism

Andy Boes, graduating from Liberty High School, has "a ton of heart" and empathy for kids who are different, including kids who are autistic like his younger sister. He's organized fundraisers for autism and helped raise awareness of the disorder, along with coaching baseball teams and other volunteer activities.

Seattle Times Eastside reporter

Andy Boes doesn't ever hesitate to correct a wrong impression.

The Liberty High senior has spent much of his high-school career explaining autism to his peers. Autistic students are the way they are because they have trouble communicating, he says.

Boes knows firsthand because his younger sister Tori, who also goes to school at Liberty in the Issaquah school district, is autistic.

"The biggest problem is ignorance," he said.

The 18-year-old recently helped organize a schoolwide fundraiser for autism, and has helped raise awareness of what the disorder is and how it affects people.

Boes said his sister's condition has shaped him to be the person he is. But he doesn't want to be defined by it.

He has been a lawyer in mock-trial competitions, served in student government, received a National Merit Scholarship commendation and even drummed up school spirit in a brief stint as Liberty High's mascot, the Patriot.

But one of his favorite activities during the past four summers was coaching kids for The FirstSwing Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides summer baseball camps.

Boes has often coached players who are academically and economically disadvantaged, including students with autism. He's put in hundreds of volunteer community-service hours for the organization, said Phil Rognier, the founder of FirstSwing.

"He immediately understands — which most adults don't understand — that all kids need to be taught differently," Rognier said.

Boes is unusually mature, and has "a ton of heart" and empathy for kids who are a little different, he said.

His favorite subjects are social studies and English. "I like it when there's not just one right answer," he said.

Boes is headed to the University of Notre Dame this fall. He plans a career in politics because he's attracted to public service.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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