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Music allows teen to fit in

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ATLANTA -

For a lot of us, music was a big part of our lives growing up. Some of us marched in our school band, some sang in the chorus. For Tahir Dawkins, music has become a way to both stand out and fit in.

Tahir is a quiet, determined, focused kid. He's had to be, because nothing in his life has come easily to him -- except for the music.

"He's just a fun kid, he's very well-mannered and he really enjoys music.  So that's what I really like about him," said Rawn Hairston, the band director at Greenforest Christian Academy.

Warming up on their own, the members of the Greenforest Christian Academy band sounds like kids sound when they're warming up. But when they come together, as a band, as one, it's kind of magical.

Hairston says he first noticed Tahir, a new kid in the band, two years ago.

"I did notice that his gait was different and his speech was just slightly off.  But once we started playing and I realized that he was a good musician, it didn't matter to me," Hairston said.

And pretty soon, Tahir, who has grown up with cerebral palsy, was just one of the band kids, which is exactly what his parents were hoping for.  

"They don't let him feel or look, like, you know, he's anyone different.  They give him that love," said Devon Dawkins, Tahir's father.

Tahir, now 13, and the Greenforest band worked to get ready for the Black History Parade,  Hairston says it's the first time they've marched together.

Staying in step musically and physically takes practice, and discipline, but that's been part of Tahir Dawkin's life since day one.

During his birth, Tahir's oxygen was cut off, injuring his brain, so he grew up with body that often won't obey him, spending years in physical and speech therapy just to get to this point.

"He's a fighter.  And when I say a fighter, I mean that, he don't like anyone to help him to do stuff," Devon Dawkins said.

But to stay in step for the parade, Tahir had to march a mile without stopping -- something he's never done before.

"I asked him, I said, "You can do this?  He said, 'Yes, Dad, I can do this. It's nothing,'" his dad said.

Home video taken on the day of the parade shows Tahir through the streets of downtown Atlanta.

"It went good," Tahir said.

Tahir made it all the way to the end.  
    
"It was easier than I thought," he said. "I was proud of myself."

Hairston said that Tahir has been an inspiration to other students.

"And the other students notice, 'If Tahir can do it, I certainly can't complain,'" said Hairston.

To his family and friends Tahir Dawkins is an example of what it's like to walk with faith, and courage.
    
"It doesn't matter who you are, or what you look like, you have a chance in life," Devon Dawkins said.

Tahir's father says Hairston, his band teacher, offered to drive Tahir to the end of the parade route if he couldn't make it, but Tahir said that he wouldn't need a backup.  So his parents parked their car and took it on faith that Tahir would make it -- and he did.

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