At age 7, I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. In elementary school, things were extremely hard. Kids would laugh and stare as I was ticcing. My eyes would roll uncontrollably, my legs would kick my desk so hard that it would fall over. But worst of all, was a vocal tic that was so extremely loud that it sounded like a piercing smoke alarm. Even teachers thought I was doing this on purpose and would yell at me to stop.
I dreaded going to school, and knew that I had to do something to stop the bullying. I realized they didn’t understand about my Tourettes and it was up to me to change this. I started going to each and every classroom explaining about Tourette Syndrome and why I was making these sounds and movements. It took a while but an amazing thing happened, the more people understood, the more accepting they became. I realized that I wanted to help others with Tourette Syndrome, so I became the Illinois Youth Ambassador for the Tourette Association of America. As a Youth Ambassador, I have gone to over 20 schools throughout Chicagoland to speak to students and faculty about Tourettes, acceptance and understanding differences.
My most extraordinary moment was when I was asked to help a student who was afraid to tell anyone he had TS. He was embarrassed and scared that others would make fun of him if they knew. In fact, his mom even told me he almost wanted to cancel the presentation because he was filled with anxiety at his classmate’s reactions. The presentation went on, and by the end, he even found the courage to join me on stage and say a few words to the hundreds of students gathered. His mom tearfully thanked me and said my presentation changed her son’s life. This made me realize that I had made a positive impact for him and many others like him through my work as a Youth Ambassador.
I have also had the incredible opportunity to speak to members of Congress on Capitol Hill about the need for research and funding. I have been in two documentaries about Tourettes. I have been honored with many awards including: The Red Cross Good Samaritan Youth Hero Award, Illinois Governor’s Volunteer Service Award, 10th Congressional District Leadership Award, and the Chicago Tribune- Youth Activist Award. In the summer, I volunteer as a counselor at Tourette Camp USA to help kids from all over the United States enjoy activities and feel accepted.
As I’ve gotten older, my tics have greatly decreased, but my commitment to helping others has not. I find it rewarding to help others that are going through the same challenges as I faced. I hope to always educate others and mentor younger kids with Tourettes and make a difference. I feel I am deserving of this scholarship because I have turned what many view as a disability into something positive and a way to help others.