Junior Jackson Hamilton shares his journey through autism

Hamilton protests at the #FightForCofC campaign in 2014. (Photo courtesy of William Hamilton)

Hamilton protests at the #FightForCofC campaign in 2014. (Photo courtesy of Jackson Hamilton)

In his senior year at Wando High school, William Jackson Hamilton VI was nominated for homecoming king. Hamilton wondered why he, an autistic student in the special education program, was chosen to represent his class as king. His excitement was short lived, as Hamilton soon realized it was all a joke intended to hurt him.

“The student body considered me a retard,” Hamilton said. “I was nominated because I was considered the pet retard of Wando High School.”

The jokes didn’t end there.

“I absorbed all their punches,” he said, “but it shattered me.”

The bullying eventually became too much. Hamilton wrote a suicide letter in August 2011.

“People weren’t treating me well,” he said. “This, on top of the the memories from high school, combined to create a psychological catastrophe.”

He climbed into the crossbeams of his parents’ garage and tried to work up the courage to jump. Thankfully, he could not find it.

The suicide note he wrote on Facebook caught the attention of a few girls that once emotionally abused him. When the girls found out he had not taken his life, they invited him to hang out and made him feel welcomed and loved. “It was a beautiful act of humanity,” he said.

But after his first attempt at suicide, the bullying did not stop.

When Hamilton came to the College of Charleston, the last thing he expected was to be bombarded with sadistically painful bullying. A group of boys that lived near him would constantly taunt him, trying to start trouble. The boys threw rocks at him, peed on him and kicked him down nearly every day.

Hamilton eventually found a way to deal with the pain.“I’m not going to hit back,” he said. “I’m going to stand up, be strong and take it.”

Hamilton’s journey through bullying has taught him to handle tough situations; he channels his role model, Mahatma Gandhi.

“I want my bullies to apologize,” Hamilton said. “And I want them to go back into the community and help people who were hurt the way that they hurt me.”

At the College of Charleston, 900 out of the 11,000 enrolled students are in the SNAP (Students Needing Access Parity) program. The Center for Disability Services created this program to provide “assistance and guidance to students with a documented disability to ensure equal access to all programs and services of the College.” In short, they strive to help students with mental or physical impairments. According to a Forbes article, colleges across the country are expanding their programs to accommodate students who struggle with disabilities.

With this, Hamilton looks to his religion as a way to learn forgiveness toward all of the people who have caused him physical and emotional pain.

Having found a way to forgive his bullies, Hamilton is now an active member of the College of Charleston community and has found a home in political activism. Hamilton started a chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society at the College and is involved in the Bleeding Heart campaign. He struggled to make a name for himself at first and faced difficulties getting his club together.

“They didn’t think an autistic kid was capable of being a leader,” Hamilton claimed.

Hamilton has proven these judgements wrong and remains a leader of the SDS.

Hamilton wants to spread his story with the dream of creating a campus more accepting of the mentally ill and more aware of bullying.

*To read more of Hamilton’s side of story, read the article he wrote about his life at http://media.wix.com/ugd/e8dc5f_b7ebcf4e93134f0a9af80ec2ac2688b0.pdf. The thoughts and information in this account are entirely Hamilton’s own. This account does not reflect the views or opinions of CIsternYard News. 

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Jessica Wilkinson is a feature writer at CisternYard News. She is a sophomore majoring in Secondary Education and History with a minor in Political Science. In her free time, she can be found binge-watching Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars on Netflix, doing Muay Thai Kickboxing and spending as much time as possible on Pinterest. She aspires to be the best history teacher your kids will ever have while spending her summers writing and traveling the world.

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