Each year, the Missouri Governor’s Council on Disability chooses one exemplary young adult to receive its Youth Leadership Award. This award, which recognizes leadership skills and a dedication to making a difference, is presented to an outstanding Missouri youth with a disability.
We are pleased to announce that the 2017 winner of this award was Variety Teen Andrew. Andrew has attended Variety’s Adventure Camp and has taken part in various family outings. He has also helped us share Variety’s mission by appearing on Fox 2 News.
In the official press release announcing the award, which was presented to Andrew on April 17, 2018, the Governor’s Council on Disability writes, “Helping people understand the ability behind the disability is a mission that Andrew takes very seriously.”
To get to know Andrew better, and to learn a little bit about the many reasons why he received this award, we asked Andrew to share what a day in his life is like. His days are jam-packed with activities that include going to school, catching up on the latest sports news and, of course, helping others.
Things aren’t always easy for Andrew, who has been diagnosed with bilateral open lipped schizencephaly and arthrogryposis. He is nonverbal, and uses a power wheelchair to stay mobile. But, obviously, that doesn’t stop him.
Here is his day-to-day story, in his own words:
- When I want to roll over at night, I wake my mom and she rolls me over.
- My mom wakes me up at 6:00 a.m. for school. She carries me from my bed to a table where she gets me dressed. She carries me to the bathroom where I sit on the toilet using a special harness attachment.
- My mom transfers me to my Leckey chair for breakfast. My mom feeds me. I like toaster waffles, apple juice and milk.
- My mom makes sure my school binder, lunch, and communication devices are packed and secure on my power wheelchair.
- My mom transfers me to my power wheelchair.
- I wait for the bus. It is always great to see Charles, my bus driver! We catch up on sports activities with Brian and Mike, two of my paras, on the ride to school.
- One of my favorite times of the day is right after arriving at Francis Howell North High School before my first class. I roam the halls and see my friends.
- About once a month, I have a Knights of Excellence Club meeting at 7:00 a.m. I love this club! It is all about recognizing excellence in our school community.
- My first hour class is Introduction to Business. I like learning about how businesses work. Brian is my para for this class. My paras help me with all the physical tasks during class: getting my homework out, opening my books, writing down my answers for an assignment or test, etc. They write down what I type on my talker.
- Second hour, I have Drawing I and on Tuesdays I work with my OT. Mike is my para for this class. This class makes me work really hard by using my right hand.
- Third hour is Intermediate Algebra. I love math! Carolyn is my para and she has trouble keeping up with me when I am working problems.
- Fourth hour, I eat my lunch in the Commons and I meet with my speech therapist every day but Thursdays. I work hard on my verbal speech skills.
- Fifth hour, I have Earth Science. Vickie is my para. We recently made a volcano in class.
- Sixth hour, I have U.S. Government. Carolyn is my para. We are currently studying for the End of Course exam that all high school students in Missouri must pass to graduate.
- Seventh hour, I have English III. Carolyn is my para. We just finished reading The Great Gatsby.
- Most days, Charles drives me home on the bus.
- Before school began, I attended training to become a mentor to the freshman class. As a mentor, we welcomed and lead our assigned freshman homeroom through freshman orientation. We also meet with them once a month during homeroom to answer their questions or concerns and to help them be successful in high school.
- About once a month, I stay after school to attend a We Are All Knights club meeting. This is a great club of students with all abilities.
- Once a week, my mom picks me up from school and she takes me to Henderson Elementary where I am a tutor/mentor in Mrs. Black’s special education room. I listen to students read and I attend their social skills class. When I was in elementary school, I loved the high school students who helped out in Mrs. Black’s room. I am proud that now I can help too!
- After school, I work on my homework and study for tests. It may take me longer than other students to complete an assignment, but I always do my best.
- In my spare time, I like to catch up on all the sports activity that day – football, baseball, hockey, and wrestling – I love them all!
If you’d like to learn more about this award, and the Missouri Governor’s Council on Disability, you can find the press release here.