I just got back from one of my first speaking engagements on GiGi’s Playhouse and Generation G. What an experience! I am so thankful to have this honor as the Site Coordinator and to have the opportunity to go out into our community and spread our message of acceptance for all. This has been something I have stood for my whole life. Can you believe there was a time in my life when I dreaded having to speak in front of others? I developed a speech impediment when I was young. Oh man, did I have a bad stutter. I will never forget getting up in front of my class in third grade and doing an oral book report on Charlotte’s Web. I could barely get through the first sentence without hearing all of the laughter as I struggled through those hard consonants. I ran back to my seat, buried my head and cried. That memory is so strongly etched into my brain that I can still tell you how all of the desks were positioned and the feel of the wood grain on the small podium I used, if even for a brief time. The hurt I felt was so real, yet I’m so glad my story doesn’t end there.
What else stuck out for me was the kindness and generosity my 4th grade teacher showed me the following year. She met with my parents and connected me with an incredible speech pathologist. I started to gain some confidence and participated in the spelling bee those next two years, even winning it my 5th grade year. That was all well and good until I realized I moved on to the city-wide bee and had to do it all over again, only in front of a larger audience. Yikes! While spelling came easy for me, the struggle came with having to say those letters in front of others. Oh was that so hard for me! I felt the sting of the laughter, the jeers and the comments through those years every time I spoke. Needless to say, I learned how to work through my stutter (it still catches me off-guard at times), but from my story I became an advocate for the “underdog”- those who have to work twice as hard to achieve their goal, even if their goal for the day is to just get through an oral book report. It is this passion that fuels me to advocate for all of your children and family members, for acceptance for every single one of them, in every avenue of their life, so that every goal they set can be achieved. I had parents and a teacher who supported and encouraged me, who expected MY Best of All and gave me the confidence to show others that I CAN speak and that it is perfectly okay to stumble, or in my case stutter, because the most important part is not giving up. This is what fuels me. Because of my stutter, I speak.