Gabrielle Burton is the definition of perseverance. She was diagnosed with autism as a teenager and initially thought the journey ahead would be difficult, especially at a new school. After moving around a bit, the Burtons settled in Irving, and Gabrielle enrolled at Nimitz High School. 

“I thought the transition was going to be hard for me until I started making friends,” she says. “Everyone was so accepting.” 

Her mother, MyChana Burton, credits the environment at Nimitz for her daughter’s growth. 

“She really blossomed in Irving ISD, and a lot of that had to do with the awesome faculty and students,” says her mother. “The environment was very accepting, which allowed her to flourish. They didn’t make her feel different or pushed into a corner.” 

Anyone who has an interaction with Gabrielle, or Gabi as some call her, can immediately sense her loveable, contagious spirit. 

“Everyone at Nimitz knew who she was and loved her,” says her mother. 

Gabi at the May 2020 Nimitz High School graduation ceremony.

During her four years at Nimitz, Gabi was an active member of the choir, anime club and writing club. In May 2020, she was able to walk with her graduating class at Globe Life Field but continued her education in Irving ISD with Project SEARCH this school year. 

Gabi working during her time at Amazon.

Project SEARCH is a one-year transition program for high school students with disabilities. Students learn interpersonal and professional skills needed to join the workforce. Students also get the opportunity to obtain employment. Gabi got the chance to do just that at Amazon.

“Being a part of Project SEARCH has helped me very much,” she says. 

“She adapted quickly to her environment and would try to refocus her co-workers when put in charge of a project,” adds Project SEARCH Instructor Amy Weems.

The experience inspired Gabi to want to achieve even more, which sparked her decision to apply to college. She was recently accepted into Sam Houston State University and will be attending in the fall. 

“I plan to major in education and become a history or language arts teacher because I get along well with kids,” she says. 

She credits the faculty and students at Nimitz and her case manager, Mr. Fagan for helping her during her educational journey. But most of all, she credits her mom. 

“My mom is my biggest inspiration. She’s always there for me, gives me independence and allows me to be myself,” says Gabi. 

When asked what she wants readers to take away from her story, she says: “Be open and accepting. People with autism think and see the world differently.” 

For other kids living with autism, she wants them to know that it’s not just a disorder, but an opportunity to learn more about yourself.