SAN ANTONIO -

Students at Cambridge Elementary School got a lesson in brain power and compassion on Thursday as they learned about a unique classmate who they have grown up with.

The fifth-graders learned the real truth about his condition and how his success may one day have a profound impact on theirs.

Conrad Tullis nearly drowned as a baby and his brain was left severely damaged.

Conrad showed very little expression when he began 1st grade at Cambridge. Today he smiles, recognizes people and things, and clearly is aware of his surroundings in a way to shows he is making brain connections that did not exist after the swimming pool accident. He still cannot walk, talk or feed himself.

Doctors at the UT-Health Science Center are onto something. Using the brain scan of a typically developing a classmate, Conrad's brain is being compared to illustrate his situation.

"What we want to gain from this is saying, okay, where are those connections strongest? where are they most like a typically developing child? we can use that information then to target therapy a little better," Liz Tullis, Conrad's mother.

"I hope that he'll be able to understand me more and I'll be able to understand him more," Jackson Beamer, Conrad's classmate.

"He loves being around the kids and he loves being able to interact with them," said Carrie Shannon, Conrad's teacher. "The progress that we are seeing is coming with the kids as much as it is with the teachers."

She and others are hopeful the research pays off and Conrad heals. Fellow fifth grader Dominick Phillips, who considers Conrad Tullis among his best friends, raised $79 toward the research project by running a lemonade stand - a small example of the donations of money and time that have been put forth to make sure researchers can thoroughly investigate his brain.

"What we are looking for Conrad is the same thing that every parent is looking for, trying to get him to reach his maximum potential and we really don't believe there is limits on that just as you don't think there's limits on your son," Tullis said.