LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Doctors said Kalin Bennett might not ever utter a word, according to his mom. But on Friday, May 25, he graduated from Little Rock Christian Academy — defying labels placed on him at an early age.
"It's been a great journey," Kalin said. "I wouldn't trade it for the world."
At 6 feet 10 inches tall, Kalin is a force on the basketball court who has received multiple college offers.
"It wasn't just about the game; it was about playing the game we love together," Kalin said of his time playing for the Warriors.
Off the court, he's worked to overcome an entirely different set of obstacles.
"It's just a day they said I would never have," Sonja Bennett said on her son's graduation day.
At six months old, Sonja noticed something was not quite right with her youngest son. She took Kalin to several doctors and, soon, he was diagnosed with autism.
"When doctors tell you 'no' or 'this can't be done' — fight," Sonja said. "Believe in your heart and believe in your child."
That's exactly what Ms. Bennett did in the years following her son's diagnosis.
"[I] kind of had a hard time talking to people, making conversation with people," Kalin said. "That was probably one of the hardest challenges."
"Now look at him," Sonja said. "He can really talk, and he talks well."
Dr. Justin Smith, head of LRCA's Upper School, said Kalin has developed a strong bond with his classmates and has an ability to bring out the joy in those around him.
"Our goal is to get students to not just see their potential but break through the ceiling of their potential," Smith said. "He truly has aspired to great things."
Not only a strong basketball player, Kalin also excels in music and math. He credits his success to a strong support system and faith in God.
"Don't think of any challenge as a punishment," Kalin said. "Think of it as a way to show everybody who you truly are and what you can really be. Be an inspiration to somebody. Work hard. Just be you."
Next, Kalin will attend Link Year in Branson, Missouri. The faith-based program helps students prepare for college and includes a basketball training program.
He has dreams of playing in the NBA and continuing to inspire others with his story.