Health

19-year-old with cerebral palsy challenges herself

Sunday, November 19, 2017

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IF her disability wasn't as obvious it would have been almost impossible to tell that 19-year-old Jenise Reece suffers from cerebral palsy.

A condition that affects the lives of 17 million people worldwide, cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the immature, developing brain, most often before a child's birth, which affects the ability to move in a coordinated and purposeful way.

For Reece, she had had to make adjustments at each stage of her life.

“I was born premature and I also lacked oxygen, so I ended up with mild cerebral palsy. Basically, it's a physical disability. So I walk with a limp and, normally, I would have to get extra time to do my exams, because [the condition] makes me a bit slow,” Reece said.

Reece, a graduate of the St Hugh's High School for Girls and Cedar Grove Academy, grew up with both parents and her older sister. Her father is a storeroom clerk at National Baking Company and her mother is an office attendant.

“I grew up in a very stable household — good childhood, good upbringing, Christian household,” Reece said.

In many ways, her condition has limited her ability to participate in physical activity. She said that people made it hard for her throughout primary and high schools. Her main focus, therefore, was academics.

“Unfortunately, I don't get to volunteer as much. Whenever I'm given the opportunity, I'm always open for that, but as someone with a disability sometimes people don't know what to give me to do, so that's a problem,” Reece said.

At the end of her high school tenure, she had amassed eight Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects and seven Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination units, gaining a total of six distinctions and 10 credits. In August 2017 she matriculated to The University of the West Indies where she's reading for a bachelor of arts degree in integrated marketing communication.

Though she was originally interested in film production and digital media, Reece has had to shift her focus.

“Growing up I was very fascinated with the computer and my focus was mainly towards film production and digital media, but because I have shaky hands, I wouldn't be able to do good in that, so I really wanted to go to CARIMAC (Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication). I really wanted to be in media and communication,” Reece said.

Reece said before matriculating to The UWI, the question of how she would afford her tuition was one that she had been seeking an answer to for awhile.

“I really didn't know how I was going to pay for university. I applied for scholarships and I [wasn't successful]... My parents really didn't have it,” Reece said.

She explained that in order to be considered a fully registered student she would either have to pay in full her fees for the first semester or use the university's instalment plan, which required a minimum deposit of 25 per cent of the semester's tuition. Her mother, she said, had borrowed a loan to settle the fees.

Reece said, too, that she was awarded a scholarship through the National Baking Company Foundation that has covered her tuition fee for the academic year.

No longer uncertain about being able to access tertiary education, Reece said she's extremely grateful for the help extended to her by the National Baking Company Foundation.

Reece also wants to be an inspiration to the disabled community.

“If I can do it, they can also do it,” Reece said.

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