Kyle Swords is 2023 Youth Advocate of the Year

On Friday, June 2, in honor of Tourette Syndrome Awareness Day, NJCTS presented ten scholarship awards to graduating New Jersey seniors as well as several other awards. Kyle Swords of Pine Brook was awarded a second-place scholarship and the Youth Advocate of the Year award.

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurobiological disorder characterized by uncontrollable movements and sounds known as tics. As many as 1 in 50 people show signs of TS or other tic disorders which is frequently accompanied by mental health disorders including ADHD, OCD, and anxiety.

Kyle was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at just five years old. As he got older, the tics got worse and so did the stares and comments from kids at school. But at 13 Kyle chose to embrace his Tourette. He said, “If I couldn’t cure it, I felt that the least I could do was accept it and help others understand.”

Kyle has been a NJCTS Youth Advocate for several years, presenting to peers, doctors, and teachers about what it means to live with this disorder. When Kyle is not advocating for TS, he is also a member of the Morris Catholic High School’s drama club and theater programs, a student ambassador, and tutor.

“There was a time where I saw my Tourette’s as a handicap, but now I must give it credit for making me the person I am,” Kyle writes in his scholarship essay. “I am now proud to say, I have Tourette’s.”

Kyle will be attending Skidmore College in the fall where he plans to study psychology.

Academic achievement, community involvement and accomplishments all play a part in the NJCTS Scholarship Committee’s decision in selecting winning candidates each year. Additionally, one graduating Youth Advocate who has proven that they go above and beyond to advocate for themselves and NJCTS gets selected as Youth Advocate of the Year.

“Kyle has continued over the years to show what it means to advocate for yourself,” said Patricia Phillips, Executive Director of NJCTS. “We cannot wait to see what he will do in college and beyond, as he continues to prove that Tourette Syndrome does not have to hold you back.”