Thanks to the MLK Summer Scholars program through John Hancock, we have been so lucky to have current Making Healthy Connections and Access to Theatre participant Lizzie Gray interning in the PYD office this summer. She’s been doing an amazing job, and we’re excited to have her share her story.
My name is Elizabeth Gray, and I am 19 years old. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 5 or 6 years old. I was also diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy at the age of 7, because my parent saw that there was something wrong with both of my legs and my feet. When I started to walk, I walked with my feet and knees inward because my hips were not fully developed yet.
What I have learned is that I am going to have both cerebral palsy and ADHD for the rest of my life, so I can’t let that delay me from achieving all of my hopes, dreams, goals, and milestones. In the fall I am going to be a freshman at Massasoit Community College in Brockton, MA where I am going to major in Liberal Arts. I will also be attending a program called LATCH, which is a program that assists students with their homework, helping them understand the information as well as helping them get organized. Also, I hope to become a member of a club that is on campus called the Helping Hands club. This clubs is focused on disability awareness, and it provides a place to discuss and generate new ideas towards the ultimate goal of EQUALITY for everyone.
When I was younger I loved to play sports. Whether it was playing 1 year of soccer, 3 years of basketball, 7 ½ years of softball, or 10 years of dancing, I loved to be a part of a team. I remember to this day my coach saying, “Help out your teammates,” and I knew that he was taking to me. The team was like my sisters and the coach was the parent telling us the best thing for all of us. I truly believe that to this day.
For years, I thought that having a disability meant that you aren’t good enough to achieve anything or finish a task, as opposed to a person who doesn’t have a disability. I have been participating in this amazing, incredible and life changing experience called Youth Leadership Forum (YLF for short). It is a 3 day conference-like event for teens that have some type of disability, whether it is physical, mental, or intellectual. It is a way to gain resources, to gain confidence, to become more independent, and to go to work or college or a training program. As a person with a disability, I know now that you are the only one standing in your way to achieving what you want to achieve.
What I have learned through YLF and PYD is to make the fullest out of each day and to not worry about the past or the future — only look at the right now. I would be lying if I said that I do this all of the time, because I don’t. It is one of the several things that I still have to work on mastering, but I have learned that it is ok to not always be the first one to finish everything. If there is someone in the world who has nothing to work on, then that person is not living their life to the fullest; no one is perfect and everyone has something that needs to be worked on.
The first year that I attended the Youth Leadership Forum, all of the participants got t-shirts that said “DISABILITY” on it, but what was so humbling is that the “DIS” was crossed out. It was showing that even if you have a disability, you have the ability to achieve anything you put your mind to.
In closing, I just want to give you a quote that I can relate to by Scott Hamilton:“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” The way you act is the only difference between you and someone who explores the future for themselves.