When Isam Gurung took a huge leap by moving from a Sydney school for deaf children to mainstream Amaroo School, the profoundly deaf student landed on a very special friendship.
His grade 6 teacher, Sara Middleton, nominated Isam's classmate Ross Kelly for the Fred Hollows Humanity Award for learning Australian Sign Language, to interact more with Isam.
After exchanging a few notes in class, Ross knew he wanted to be Isam's friend. He committed himself to learn AUSLAN in and outside school hours, and now uses it to interpret for Isam in class, at lunch, at school assemblies and at his Scouts group, which Isam recently joined.
Ross said he used the new language every day and was teaching it to others.
"Within a month or two I had the basics, thanks to the help of Isam and interpreters," he said. "It is easy to learn but you have to learn lots of different signs, so it can take a long time and I haven't learnt it all yet.
"My family thinks it is pretty cool that I am learning sign language and am teaching them as well … my little brother is really interested and likes to come up to Isam and learn some signs."
Ms Middleton said she was impressed by Ross' commitment and believed many would be in awe of his attitude towards inclusion.
"It is amazing that he has learnt a whole new language and to see a student take on something so big and be able to follow that passion," she said.
"I imagine Isam's world can be pretty lonely at times, so it is amazing that he has someone who can communicate with him."
She said the pair had cheeky classroom chats, as all children do, but they sometimes have the upper hand, as she knows only the basics of AUSLAN and has to concentrate on their interactions.
"It's about gauging if it's on topic," she joked. "Are they having a chat or doing their work?"
The Fred Hollows Humanity Award, now in its fifth year in Canberra, recognises year 6 students who follow in Fred Hollows' footsteps by showing care and compassion for others.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr will recognise all nominees at a presentation ceremony on September 1, when the 2016 ACT Junior Ambassador will also be announced.
The ambassador will get to allocate $5000 donated by Specsavers to one of the Fred Hollows Foundation's programs to end avoidable blindness.
To nominate a student, visit hollows.org/humanityaward