Age 24, heart and kidney transplant
Photographed by Beth Ferraro
There I was, 11 years young, waking up in Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh after receiving a life changing heart and kidney transplant. A year and a half before that, I was just a normal kid without any known health problems. At that moment, I entered the life of living with a disability as I would be on medication for the rest of my life and would require lifelong health care. I would be facing walking limitations and consistent hospitalizations for years to come.
Though expectations for the trajectory of my life were low from the perspective of most, I was determined to prove them all wrong. I wanted a life that I imagined in spite of the many barriers my disabilities placed in front of me. I also wanted to advocate for individuals with disabilities like me. So, I studied government and politics in college. During my education, I went on to obtain prestigious political internships at the White House, Democratic National Committee (DNC) and in the office of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. These experiences led me to start my own nonprofit organization, Project ASCEND that provides college scholarships to young people living with disabilities in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
I believe we as people with disabilities are capable of doing anything we dream of so long as we serve as leaders and pave the way for those behind us. A change is on its way and young people with disabilities are leading the movement.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
President Barack Obama