The National Youth Ambassador program put on by the Tourette Syndrome Association trains and equips teenagers to speak to people of all ages — particularly their peers — about the neurological disorder. In its Spring 2013 newsletter, the TSA acknowledged a slew of Youth Ambassadors (YA) from all over the country. Here is the spotlight writeup:
Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Allred does not have Tourette Syndrome, but on behalf of her sister Tempest, she has made TS her cause. In addition to her TSA YA presentations, Mercedes is a champion in the competitive world of speech and debate. Her favorite event is oratory — 7-to-10-minute speeches written, memorized and delivered by the competitor.
“My entire speech is about Tourette Syndrome. I go over what TS is, explaining what a tic is, different kinds of tics, and that environmental factors affect it. And then I talk about Tempest’s experiences and why it is important for people to know about TS,” Mercedes explained.
She views the speeches she gives about TS as opportunities to spread awareness, noting that with three rounds of competition and five competitors and a judge, she is reaching about 30 people each time she competes.
Mercedes is a senior at American Leadership Academy, where her favorite subjects are English and Graphic Design. She would like to become a teacher and debate coach. She is very enthusiastic about public speaking and thinks it is “a fantastic activity for everyone, especially people with TS. It really helps confidence and poise.”
In May, Mercedes will compete in the National Individual Tournament of Champions in Texas: “I’m super excited about having the opportunity to spread awareness to so many people.”
Allred, of Utah, recently made a presentation to 75 elementary school teachers at Webster Academy in Orem and 17 elementary school teachers at American Leadership Academy in Spanish Fork. Mercedes also spoke before two groups of students, 28 fourth-graders and 15 students in a health class — both at American Leadership Academy.
Read more about the Youth Ambassador program at work in New Jersey as part of the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders’ education outreach and peer advocacy efforts.