Madilynne was a winner of a 2020 NJCTS Scholarship Award.
This was the essay she included with her application.
I will never forget the first time I experienced something I couldn’t understand. I was in fourth grade and it was only the second month of school. I was already under a lot of stress and had a difficult time focusing. It didn’t help that there was a clip chart presented each day that scored everyone on their behavior. Whenever my teacher noticed she was losing my attention, she would move the clip down to the box labeled “poor”. I always tried to do my best in class, so it was frustrating to be punished and humiliated in front of my peers. This ended up stressing me out even more.
One day, I came home crying from getting “clipped down” and my eye started to uncontrollably twitch. My mom noticed and asked, “Mad, are you okay? Is there something in your eye… why do you keep winking?” I answered, “There’s nothing in my eye, I just can’t stop blinking.” After a thorough examination and conversation with a doctor, I was diagnosed not only with tourettes, but also with ADHD because of how difficult it was for me to pay attention in school.
Going into middle school was extremely stressful and caused me to gain more tics, including shrugging my shoulders and rolling my neck to crack it. My attention in class didn’t improve either. I constantly struggled with assignments and was often the last to finish. To make matters worse, I had to take tests in a different room which was very humiliating. On top of that, my classmates noticed that my mom had to come in monthly for meetings to discuss my disabilities.
Thoughts of transitioning to high school scared me a lot. My mom warned me that I might stress more when it started, which might cause my issues to get worse. I was determined to not let this happen. When freshman year started, I worked as hard as I could to prevent my stress and tics from getting in the way of my success.
I have been able to balance sports, clubs, and babysitting three times per week. Despite having such a full schedule, I’ve committed myself to making time for it all. My academic work is my top priority and I have made honor roll every marking period since beginning high school. I don’t allow myself to fall behind and seek out help from my teachers when needed. Additionally, I decided to try out for the field hockey team. To help myself meet this goal, I practiced and ran everyday to prepare. From all my hard work, I made varsity within the first two weeks of the season. When I began high school, my goal was to never feel less than my peers or fall behind. My determination and efforts kept that from happening.
I have learned that there is nothing embarrassing about being different. Even though some things may be technically “harder” for me because of my disabilities, having them doesn’t make me any less of a person. In fact, I now realize that most people have some kind of disability or obstacle to learn to live with. Some are more obvious or challenging than others. What makes us who we are is how we choose to overcome the obstacles in our way. Some people have to work harder to overcome their challenges but at some point, everyone has struggles. Tourettes and ADHD are mine, and because of them I am an extremely hard worker and strong person. I haven’t missed a beat in high school and feel extremely good about the person I have become. Post high school, I will succeed not in spite of my disabilities, but because of them. Ironically, I now realize that my disabilities didn’t “disable” me at all but rather “enabled” me to develop an inner strength that I will have with me for the rest of my life.