SARASOTA, Fla. -- This week's Amazing Woman of the Suncoast is the youngest one we've ever honored. At only 17 years old, she's already overcome big obstacles and earned national acclaim for her efforts to help others.
Courtney Astore learned at a very early age that if there's a mountain in front of you, and you can't go over it, go around it or through it -- but don't let it stop you.
The Cardinal Mooney incoming senior is a very accomplished pianist; you would never guess she struggles with learning disabilities. "I process things different with my senses and my auditory."
She became aware of her problems in 5th grade. "It was taking me longer to understand things and make sure I was up to pace with my peers."
But by high school she learned to deal with it. "It was really about putting in extra time and extra work in order to keep up with everyone, basically."
And she's putting in that extra work and more, and she is soaring. Courtney is just back from competing in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles. One of only 1,700 students from around the world chosen to participate, her project focused on autism. "I conducted a comprehensive survey for parents affected by autism and parents aren't affected by autism as my control group."
This is her second year to make the international competition, and her 3rd year to focus her science project on autism. "My freshman year I won first in my category in behavior and social sciences."
She learned children with autism like to chew on things, so she created a shirt with a removable bib covered with the safest things to chew on. "The next year I focused on verbal proximations, increasing verbal proximations, and I tested iPad applications to see if it increased them."
She also didn't let her learning disability stop her from taking up rowing. And for the last 3 years her crew has made it to the state finals. "Rowing has given me a lot. It's made me more passionate, more of a hard worker, everything."
Courtney is also blessed with amazing parents. I asked them their secret in helping Courtney reach for the stars. "Patience, perseverance, and let them know they can do anything they want to do," says Donna Astore.
And the life lessons Courtney has learned as she's had to overcome barriers to reach her goals? "Take positive away from a negative experience. Say ‘this happened’, but I can make something better out of it that other people can take away from."
She's only 17 years old, but already she is an amazing woman. And getting to know Courtney makes you feel a lot more confident about the future.