Jonathan Myskiw wanted to make his graduation extra special, so he messaged Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes asking him to attend.
"He said he was going to be the first person to graduate from his school and that he's the biggest Canucks fan," explained Quinn. "I could tell how much it meant to him, and for me, it's important to do nice things and be a nice person. I felt like this was a good opportunity to try and do that."
So, on the eve of the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver, with his brother Jack expected to be the 1st overall draft pick, Quinn was hiding backstage in a school gymnasium during a secondary school graduation, waiting to surprise its prize pupil.
Video: Quinn Hughes Surprises Fan at Graduation
Jonathan, a 20-year-old from North Vancouver, lives with autism and a severe anxiety disorder. At age 12 he was non-verbal, reaching many life milestones later than his peers. He was bullied at school and needed a change.
Fawkes Academy, which opened in September 2011 to provide individualized educational programs for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder, other complex developmental disabilities, or different learning needs, was there for Jonathan. He began attending in the fall of 2011 and over the course of eight years, Jonathan said farewell to his former self, growing into a confident, educated, outgoing person.
"I'm a man, I'm a grown up," said Jonathan, with pride. "I've come a long way. I was way different. I was very shy and afraid to talk to people. I was bullied in elementary school. Then when I found this school, that all changed."
Sara Shababi-Shad, a beahaviour analyst at Fawkes, said the Jonathan she knows today is a far cry from the boy she met when he first started.
"He was a shy young boy, who was transitioning to a new school, and we were a new school as well," said Shababi-Shad. "We had a teacher who was experienced working with children with autism, so Jonathan felt comfortable and he slowly started to become the person he is today. Over time he's become a leader in the classroom, he's grown so much and has overcome so many obstacles in his personal life, social life and academic life. He's persevered through everything life has thrown at him."
Sports, and specifically the Vancouver Canucks, played a major role in Jonathan becoming his true self.
"From day one that I remember, he's always been into all the sports, especially hockey and the Canucks," said Shababi-Shad. "He's always wearing his Canucks jersey or his hat, he never fails to greet everyone, then say something about the most recent Canucks game. He's always had a really positive attitude towards his sports teams, even if they're going through a rough patch."
With Quinn Hughes in attendance on June 20th, Jonathan became the first ever graduate of Fawkes Academy. The celebration, held at Our Lady of Mercy School in Burnaby, was attended by upwards of 100 family, friends and staff members - and one 19-year-old Canucks rookie.
"He reminds me of me when I was in school at a young age," said Quinn. "I really loved the Leafs and me and my buddies were big Leafs fans and would always talk about hockey all the time. He loves the Canucks and him and his friends love to talk hockey. It's cool to be here for him and hear the stories of how he has really impacted his school positively. He has a tremendous amount of character."
Jonathan, who now wants to attend university to become a sports analyst and special education assistant to help kids like himself succeed, is a shining example of hard work paying off.
"It's hard enough being a teenager, but having to overcome everything else that was thrown at him because of a diagnosis and the different challenges he's had, it's taken a long time for him and a lot of hard work from him, his family and our staff," said Shababi-Shad. "It's a huge achievement, he's our first graduate and it's huge for all of us.
"It's important for all our kids to see that with hard work and perseverance, any of our kids can do it. Jonathan is now that person and he's such a great role model and mentor to all of his peers."