By Jake Hudgeons
I have been fortunate enough to attend the NJCTS Tim Howard Leadership Academy for the past 3 years. Ever since my first year, it has helped me immensely.
In my first year at the Leadership Academy, some of my first impressions were that this was a place where people were going to be accepting, encouraging, and understanding. Also, the other academy attendees were kind, eager to make friends, comfortable in the environment, and most importantly feeling accepted amongst everyone. I was able to tic freely without feeling regret, or embarrassment, which is a rarity. The academy is a huge support system, there are very informative seminars, and designated times spent in small groups and just talk. There is a wide variety of cool things NJCTS has worked into this program.
I have made a number of friendships, and I’m often still in touch with former academy participants via social media. I have even gotten together with a couple of attendees afterwards.
I have some great memories from my entire academy experience such as the fun, unique wake up routine for everyone, the fun mealtime moments with the staff and attendees, kickball, really in-depth seminars with guest speakers who work in various fields, and meeting people from all walks of life that you can make friends with, and provide support for one another from across the United States, Canada, and even other places too.
I`ve been attending since 2017, and I have learned things that had a positive impact on my life. I have learned from the academy how to respond in situations with friends about my Tourette Syndrome, and even responding/reacting in general stress-filled situations. I have acquired knowledge on how to handle going into a new or current job with Tourette Syndrome or associated conditions, and even things that have helped me maintain friendships.
There has also been plenty of information on how to advocate for yourself, your friends, and others with disabilities. This has allowed me to stand-up for myself in a variety of situations, whether it was in school, with my family, strangers, or even friends, advocating has been a key to success for me as it has given me self confidence to represent myself, and teach others about Tourette Syndrome. Advocating has also helped me develop more of a leadership role, as I now stand up for others, and have participated in various activities that require that type of leadership mentality.
Any teenager with TS should absolutely apply to the academy because I guarantee you that this experience will bring you a sense of fulfillment, belonging, confidence, hopefulness, lots of useful information, while providing a great opportunity to make friends with people who have things in common with you.
During the academy you will be shown that NJCTS has a wide variety of resources available that will make your life easier.
Don`t wait, apply now. It will change your life. It has changed mine.