Skyline Alternate School student Brittany Parent is off to Ottawa this week to join about 50 students from around Canada at the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Youth Leadership Summit.
Brittany has a relatively mild form of cerebral palsy but says the contest to attend the summit was open to both students with and without disabilities.
After having major surgery four years ago to straighten her legs, Brittany chose to complete Grades 10, 11, and 12 at Skyline Alternate School.
“I was quite devoted to my school work and Skyline offered me the freedom to enjoy life and school with its flexible schedule,” Brittany says.
In its more severe forms, Brittany says people with cerebral palsy are unable to talk and are confined to a wheelchair most of the time.
Over the years Brittany has been able to do many things that others with cerebral palsy are unable to do such as play soccer, do yoga, take dance lessons at the Dance in Common studio, and ride her bike, activities she continues to enjoy.
Before the surgery to straighten her legs, which involved breaking both of her femur bones, Brittany said she was also able to run, but she isn’t recovered enough yet for that activity.
“I had to learn how to walk all over again,” Brittany said. Some days she needs to wear leg braces to get around.
“I just started to be able to walk without poles on uneven ground.”
Students chosen for the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Youth Leadership Summit competed for the honour by submitting essays or videos about why they believe including people with disabilities in society is important to them.
Applicants also needed to talk about any work they may have done or planned to do to raise awareness about inclusion and accessibility issues in their communities.
Brittany was inspired to create a video for the contest after she attended a presentation that Rick Hansen gave two years ago at her former Mountview Elementary School.
She said she had the opportunity to speak with Hansen which inspired her to work on a project to have the black handrails that were later installed between the isles of the bleachers in the big arena at the Cariboo Memorial Complex.
Brittany took physiotherapy at the Cariboo Chilcotin Child Development Centre for many years and now volunteers as a helper for younger children involved in programs there. She is also a player and a volunteer helper with the Special Olympics soccer team.
“I also played regular soccer until I had the leg surgery when I was 14,” Brittany says. Prior to the surgery she also enjoyed helping out with the CDC’s swim program.
Now 18, Brittany will graduated this June, but plans to return to Skyline in the fall to take Biology 12 which will allow her to enter university to train for a future career, possibly as an English teacher or speech/language therapist.
“I would like to help children with disabilities in some way,” Brittany says. “I like reading and writing a lot.”
Brittany lives at home with her parents Shannon and Kelvin and 12-year-old sister Kendra.
The Rick Hansen Foundation Youth Leadership Summit in Ottawa takes place May 19 to 22 and includes a private tour of Rideau Hall for the delegates and their chaperones plus workshops for the delegates.
The students and their chaperones stay in the Carleton University dorms. After the summit, Brittany says she and her mother will stay in Ottawa for a few extra days on their own to explore the city on their own.