(NECN: Jack Thurston, Essex Junction, Vt.) - When Daniel Goodrow, 18, walks the busy halls of his school in Essex Junction, Vt., there's one word he doesn't want to hear.
"I'm not happy about that word," he said.
The word is "retarded." Goodrow has Down syndrome and told New England Cable News when students toss around what he calls the "R-word" as a synonym for "dumb" or "boring," it's hurtful to people like him with intellectual disabilities.
"They just don't think what they're saying," Goodrow said.
Now, the senior is getting lots of attention for his efforts to stamp out the R-word. The National Down Syndrome Society honored Goodrow this month in Washington, D.C. for leading awareness campaigns and talking at assemblies about why the R-word can be hurtful.
"I'm happy," Goodrow said, describing his pride stemming from the advocacy award he received.
Essex High School principal Rob Reardon said he believes Goodrow's posters and speeches in classrooms and other settings have gotten many young people to rethink their word choice. Reardon also told NECN Goodrow's presentations have encouraged the school community to watch other language, like how sometimes kids say, "that's so gay," as a way of belittling something.
"Any time you have student leaders talking to other students, that's very effective," Reardon said.
"I think they're extraordinary," high school junior Peter Henry said of Goodrow's efforts. "The fact he achieved a national award is amazing."
"I think it's good because people will understand how it's offensive to people," added junior Mariah Neverett.
Daniel's father, Lloyd Goodrow, said he doesn't expect his son to ever stop speaking up when he fears his friends may get hurt by others' words.
"I've learned more about life from my son Daniel than I've learned from anybody in the world," Goodrow said. "It's his positive attitude, it's his can-do attitude. What Down syndrome means to Daniel is not what he can't do, it's that he has to work harder to accomplish things."
This stand-out student said he hopes others carry on his crusade in their communities.
"It's actually disrespectful," the student said of the R-word. "And I just want them to stop, because mostly it's not okay to use."