The NJCTS Tim Howard Leadership Academy empowered a new set of leaders in the Class of 2017. Each of the 29 participants took part in an intensive four-day training promoting self-empowerment, self-leadership, and resilience—all important skills to succeed while living with Tourette Syndrome.
Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by uncontrollable sounds and movements known as tics. As many as 1 in 100 people show signs of TS which is frequently accompanied by other disorders including ADHD, OCD, and learning disabilities.
Created in 2014 in partnership with superstar goalkeeper and TS advocate Tim Howard, the Academy is the only leadership program for teens diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome in the nation.
The 4th annual Academy took place at Rutgers University from August 3-6 where leading TS experts led presentations and workshops throughout the program. Participants had the opportunity to learn from neurologists, geneticists, psychologists, social workers, and others about their diagnoses.
“We want them to leave as experts, ready to face a public who is misinformed about TS,” said Leadership Academy Director Melissa Fowler. “They have a unique opportunity to learn more about their diagnosis from our expert presenters.”
The participants—who hailed from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, California and Canada—contributed thoughtful questions and were eager to share life-skills tips with each other. They were assigned to teams led by coaches who are successful young adult leaders with TS.
“We marveled at the sheer amount of growth our participants made over the course of four days,” said Leadership Academy Assistant Director Maddie Pucciarello. “Being around others who share their diagnosis is a liberating experience. Receiving mentorship from experienced, accomplished coaches who have been in the participants’ shoes is invaluable. The connections made at the Academy are connections that foster self-advocacy, leadership, and a strong sense of self. Every year brings something different, and every year is guaranteed to bring with it new insight.”
In smaller “Team Talk” sessions, personal, powerful, and emotional discussions continued and participants worked on their contributions to the final project. The Class of 2017 created tools including videos, comic books, and handouts to be shared with individuals and families who are in need of Tourette Syndrome resources.
“The academy has been wonderful for my son’s growth and development and advocating for himself,” said one Academy parent. “I wish we found out about the academy sooner. My son would love to be a Coach someday. I really appreciate all the academy does for kids with TS.”
Throughout the course of the Academy, participants spoke of resilience and leadership and defined personal goals for themselves. With the lessons and skills they gained, this class will step up to be the voice of awareness in their own communities.
The 2018 NJCTS Tim Howard Leadership Academy dates will be announced soon. For more information visit www.njcts.org.