Grace Hawruk’s junior year at DePaul Catholic High School wasn’t an ordinary one. In fact, it was chock full of more extracurricular activities than many students her age. That’s because Hawruk, 17, has been busy advocating on behalf of the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS).
On January 25, Hawruk joined Dr. Tolga Taneli for the “Living Tourette with Grace: Patient-Centered Education” grand rounds presentation at New Jersey Medical School in Newark. Hawruk addressed a panel of health-care professionals about the importance of proper diagnosis and treatment of TS.
In March, Hawruk was chosen by NJCTS to attend the prestigious National Tourette Syndrome Youth Ambassador Conference in Washington, D.C. From March 19-21, Hawruk received training on how to speak publicly about TS and advocate not just for herself, but for the entire Tourette community. She also met with several of New Jersey’s federal legislators, including Senators Frank Lautenberg (D) and Robert Menendez (D), and Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ11).
“I had an unforgettable experience attending the conference,” said Hawruk, of Butler. “I feel so fortunate to have been chosen as a Youth Ambassador representing New Jersey. I received extensive training on the best way to educate other students and adults about Tourette Syndrome, and the need for people to understand and be tolerant of people with TS. I know from personal experience that people can be confused by the symptoms of TS and can have preconceived ideas about TS.”
And in May, Hawruk ventured to the Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Boonton for presentations to students in 3rd and 4th grade, as well as 5th through 8th grade – after which she noted that the students, teachers and principal were very interested in Tourette Syndrome and learned a lot about the neurological disorder that affects 1 in100 children. She then spoke to another group of health-care professionals in a Patient-Centered Medical Education presentation at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick.
Hawruk chalks up her willingness to shoulder such a heavy slate to two things: Her desire to help aid the mission of NJCTS, which in part is to provide programs and services to the TS community, and the plethora of information she learned during her March trip to Washington.
“My experience (at the Youth Ambassador Conference) was amazing!” she said. “I will forever treasure that experience, and I look forward to my mission as a Youth Ambassador of educating students about TS by making presentations at more schools and organizations.”