NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome and Associated Disorders (NJCTS) has awarded AnnaClaire Sems of Bernardsville Youth Advocate of the Year for 2022. Sems, who was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (TS) has been a Youth Advocate with NJCTS for several years, presenting at New Jersey schools to educate her peers about TS and tell them her personal story.
Tourette Syndrome is a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by uncontrollable movements known as tics. As many as 1 in 100 people show signs of TS or other tic disorder which is frequently accompanied by mental health disorders including ADHD, OCD, and anxiety.
Sems was trained as a Youth Advocate at NJCTS and attended the Tim Howard Leadership Academy in 2019.
“I educated children on what Tourette Syndrome is, what it looks like, and how it feels,” Sems said in her scholarship essay. “While this hasn’t stopped the ridiculous questions, such as, “Do you scream like a monster?”, I know the questions come from a different place. They come from curiosity and a willingness to learn more.”
In the summer of 2020, and virtual school looming at Bernards High School, Sems decided it was time for a new adventure. She applied and was accepted to the Oakcliff Sailing program in Oyster Bay, NY, the top training program for sailing in the United States. She lived at the training facility full time while she continued high school online with US Performance Academy, a program specifically designed for athletes. During the Spring 2021 semester she traveled to Dauphin Island, Alabama to train in the Gulf of Mexico.
“We are always so proud of our youth advocates and the amazing things that they set out to do against all odds,” says Patricia Phillips, Executive Director of NJCTS. “Tourette Syndrome should not hold you back from your dreams and AnnaClaire went for hers.”
This fall Sems will be part of the honors program at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.