Written by Jeff Meyer on 20 Jan 2016
For the majority of cerebral palsy patients, the unfortunate reality is that the cognitive, developmental, and motor impairments of their given condition hampers and completely prevents participation in even alternative schooling. And yet, there are incredible success stories of cerebral palsy patients that fill the news each week, who have struggled harder than most just to live normally like most. And then, there are heroes, such as cerebral palsy patient Jessie Guillaume, who go onto reach accomplishments that the average person can only vaguely consider achieving; perhaps in another place, perhaps in another time, or perhaps if conditions were better.
But not Jessica Guillaume of Laney High School in North Carolina, who after obtaining an already impressive vote of confidence from her peers by being elected to the Fall homecoming queen in the beginning of the school year, now goes onto the national stage to compete against other homecoming queens across the nation for the prestigious national high school homecoming queen title. Impressive, yes, but given that Guillaume has additionally spent a lifetime managing her cerebral palsy condition, this young woman’s accomplishments are indubitably more impressive, more recognizable. But to Jessica, who requires the use of mobility aids such as walking sticks to maneuver around the school, her homecoming victory was simply predicated on her assessment of herself as simply a people person that likes to talk to everyone. However, once the votes began to be tallied, and perhaps a numeric accounting of the reciprocity of her cheerful, outgoing demeanor became apparent as Jessica won this past Fall’s crown, she notes she felt a deep sense of gratitude.
Moreover, of only a small segment of the homecoming queens winning at their local high schools across the United States, Jessica has been requested to participate at the next stage by appearing in the Liberty Bowl Homecoming Queens’ National Parade on the day of the Liberty Bowl. The appearance is a far cry from the comfortable confines of Laney High School, as a Jessica will be live on ESPN, for both pageant work during the parade itself, but also, around the city of Memphis in working with sick children at St. Jude’s hospital facilities, while still hoping to perhaps have some time to enjoy the wonderful, unique experience, as Jessica notes she feels blessed to merely have as an option in the first place.
However, given the short notice of the openings for Jessica and other Homecoming Queens across the country, Jessica and her supporters are seeking donations to cover expenses pertaining to participating in the Liberty Bowl Parade and other events, while also directly stating that a visible representation of an individual with a disability competing in an arena generally reserved for the few and flawless, is an empowering and uplifting idea, as Jessica’s long-term career goal entails similar acts of selfless giving back as she plans to pursue a degree in special education teaching as an undergraduate soon. Or as Guillaume states excitedly and succinctly, “I want to inspire other kids with a disability, like ‘you can do something with your life’,”
If you would like to do something to help Jessica pursue her path of educating the nation about cerebral palsy and other conditions facing millions of Americans often forgotten in the everyday media conversation, please visit Jessica’s 40% fulfilled Go-Fund-Me campaign to support her trip to perform in the pageant and parade of the Homecoming of Homecoming Queens in Memphis, Tennessee.