Topic: Please submit a 'visual poem', in a style of your choosing, on the theme of overcoming a personal challenge.
1800wheelchair is very proud to announce the winner of our Spring '18 scholarship contest. With well over 100 entries, this one stood apart for its interesting visuals and compelling story.
First, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Ali Ibanez, I’m a senior at Cottonwood High School in Murray, Utah. I have six siblings, a shih-tzu chihuahua mix, and two amazing parents that love and support me. I have arthrogryposis which limits the joint function and mobility in my lower extremities. Due to this, I use a wheelchair to get around but don’t let that fool you, I’m just as able any other rowdy teenager. :)
Throughout my life, I have overcome many challenges that have surfaced due to my disability. In all my challenges in life many have been due to physical restrictions, such as not being able to walk or participate in abled body sports at a competitive level like my sibling have, but just as equal to being physically held back are the emotional challenges. All my life I’ve had people tell me I wouldn’t be able to do certain things such as experience the simplicity of walking on a beach with the sand between my toes, zoom through a park on a bicycle, or even just attend regular school dances. I’m sure my mother has heard her fair share of things I couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to do, whether it be from my doctors, teachers, relatives, neighbors, or complete strangers. I remember when I first asked my mom about my wheelchair and why I was the only one in the elementary school with one. She had to explain to me that I wasn’t like the other kids at our school, that I was special and just had to do things a little differently than the other kids. The next day at school my friends decided to play on the monkey bars and told me I couldn’t play with them because I probably couldn’t do it. I immediately climbed onto the ladder and hoisted myself onto the monkey bars with a huge grin on my face, they smiled and then asked me if I would like to play tag with them.
From that point on, I decided that the only person that would be able to tell me what I could and couldn’t do would be myself. Since then many people have been suspicious of my abilities, not believing that I would be able to do everything that the other “normal” kids did. Time after time, it’s been my pleasure to prove them wrong. I had a substitute teacher in middle school that told me after I failed a pop quiz that I probably wouldn’t have a chance in college due to my disability. Despite the fact that half the class had failed the quiz, she only addressed my failure thinking it was due to my placement in a wheelchair. I had the satisfaction of reminding her that a wheelchair only meant a physical disability, not necessarily a deterrent to my cognitive ability. It’s to my seventh grade substitute teacher that I am grateful to announce that I’m in the top ten percent of my graduating class with a 4.0 GPA, and will be continuing my education at the University of Illinois this upcoming Fall.
Not only have I faced challenges academically based on the judgement and prejudice of others, but also those challenges in the department of athletics. I have always loved being active, and it wasn’t until eighth grade that I was physically told I wouldn’t be able to try out for the girls basketball team because I was considered a “liability” to the other girls’ safety and presence. I wasn’t necessarily hurt by the decision because I didn’t realize it was based on the account of me being in a wheelchair. I honestly just thought the coach meant I was such a bad basketball player that I could’ve cause bodily injury to my classmates and laughed it off because I was in partial agreement. However, later that year I met one of the most amazing group of people I had ever met. It was a wheelchair basketball team- the Utah Rush, then called the Salt Lake Rec N Crew. I met them on an elementary school basketball court and they welcomed me into their little basketball family like I was their own. I’m grateful to have been playing with them ever since, we just finished our season this past April and were ranked seventh in the nation on the high school level. Now that I’m graduating, I won’t be able to play on the team anymore but will be able to continue my career at the collegiate level at the University of Illinois this Fall as well as the international level on the U.S. National Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team this coming August in Hamburg, Germany.
I’ve overcome so many challenges, both physically and emotionally that one would think I would’ve given up years ago. That, however, was not the case. To all the people that told me I couldn’t, and the people that will now tell me I can’t, I wish you all the best and thank you for being the partial part of my motivation to push past my boundaries and becoming the person I am today. Without you, I wouldn’t have dared to say “WATCH ME” while you said “CAN’T”. I wouldn’t have continued to push my development and growth both mentally and physically, and for that I am extremely grateful.