Youth Forward Scholarship Winter 2016 – Turning Disability into Ability

Name: Tanner Metcalfe
From: Rochester, New York
Grade: College Freshman
School: University of Rochester
Votes: 0

Disability into Ability

During my senior year of high school, I was lucky enough to have the
privilege of being a part of the Unified Basketball team. Unified is
a team composed of able-bodied kids that compete alongside children
with disabilities against other schools in the area. The decision to
participate in this wonderful activity was one of the best of my
life. I also volunteered with the Special Olympics over the summer
and in college, I was able to be a part of the Center for Excellence
in Teaching and Learning, which helps teach disabled young adults
life skills. The reason that I like volunteering with the kids is
that it isn’t really even volunteering. I consider it just being a
friend, because that’s what we are, friends.

Although it was a large time commitment, upwards of 20 hours per month during
a stressful time in my life, volunteering with disabled kids has been
the most rewarding activity that I have ever done. The joy that I see
on their faces after they score a basket or run in a race is by far
the most rewarding thing ever and makes all the time dedication worth
it. This gives me the most satisfaction as a volunteer. The
responsibility that came with being responsible for the kids’
well-being, and their learning, as well as being responsible in a
possible medical emergency situation, was not a factor to me, as it
just felt like fun while I was with the kids. The biggest difficulty
when playing with the kids was that sometimes I felt like I wasn’t
doing enough for them. Of course I was giving them time out of my
day, but after that, when I had to go do things for myself, what
would they do? This was the most difficult part for me, not being
able to give my all to help them more.

Overall, the act of playing with and teaching disabled children taught me a
lot as well. It showed me to value everything that I have in life, to
be thankful for my blessings, and to not take anything for granted.
The fact that these kids can be so happy about life despite their
medical conditions makes me truly understand how to value life and
everything that I have, and taught me to be much happier with what I

This volunteering also has to do with my future profession. I am studying
neurology at the University of Rochester and will specialize in brain
damage, specifically cognitive impairments and strokes. This means
that in the future I will be treating kids a lot like the ones that I
currently play with. Volunteering serves as motivation to study hard
and someday be able to help the kids in further ways than simply
playing basketball with them. I think that my volunteering has made a
difference. I can see it when the kids light up after scoring a
basket or winning a race, they are truly having fun. To be able to
befriend the great kids that they are is in my mind making a huge
difference and will help them long after the basketball season is

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