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Cumberland's first student going out on top
by Bobby Tedder
May 21, 2014 01:40 PM | 1700 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff/Samantha M. Shal
Cumberland Academy of Georgia valedictorian Steven Scarborough with mother, school founder and Headmaster, Debbi Scarborough.
Staff/Samantha M. Shal Cumberland Academy of Georgia valedictorian Steven Scarborough with mother, school founder and Headmaster, Debbi Scarborough.
Cumberland Academy of Georgia valedictorian Steven Scarborough’s upcoming graduation walk will mark the culmination of a rather unique journey.

Scarborough, diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at a young age, was the school’s first student and will finish up there as its top senior at this week’s commencement exercises.

“It’s an exciting time,” said Scarbourough, 19. “I make speeches quite a bit using the [theme], ‘Everybody is somebody.’ … They really understand that here.”

His principal partner in this narrative is mother Debbi, who along with husband Matthew founded Cumberland after failing to find a school that would adequately help their then-sixth-grade son with his condition.

Cumberland, which accommodates high-functioning autistic fourth- through 12th-graders, has since seen its student population grow to 100.

Steven was diagnosed with Asperger’s, a form of autism characterized by significant difficulties with social interaction, at age 3.

“I am so proud of how far he’s come,” his mother said. “He was a premature baby, only weighed 2½ pounds.

“Doctors told us there was a 75 percent to 80 percent chance he wouldn’t walk or see. … But I knew then that he was a fighter, that he’s going to be just fine.”

The affable teen, a self-professed car enthusiast and ladies’ man, is pondering where the next chapter of his education will take him. Thoughts of his own personal champion — his mother, who is also Cumberland’s headmaster — commingle with talk of his future.

“My mom has worked very, very hard for me as well as others like me,” he said. “Most importantly, she never gives up.”

Those types of efforts and resilience have netted significant results. The school purchased the 50,000 square feet of property housing its campus from its landlord, First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs, outright. Students at the school hail from as far away as Abu Dhabi and Australia.

“We’re all on the same journey together — students, parents, the community,” Debbi said. “We’re glad to be here … but we’ve got a lot more work to do.”
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