Sara, a freshman at New Smyrna Beach High School and a student in its medical academy, has been named 2016 Ambassador for Easter Seals of Volusia and Flagler Counties.
Sara began her relationship with Easter Seals in 2002. A toddler at that time, she received physical therapy for walking, and occupational therapy for sensory development and feeding.
Years later, following knee surgery, she received physical therapy again from Registered Play Therapist Amal Greiss, a certified clinical instructor who leads the hands-on pediatric therapy at Easter Seals.
“Amal is the one who taught me how to walk the first time, and walk again after my surgery,” says 15-year-old Sara. “She’s a gift to me.”
Sara says if she hadn’t received services from Easter Seals, she would not be who she is today: an active, social young adult whose dream is to continue helping others.
“Easter Seals taught me how to walk, ride a bike, and walk the stairs,” she says. “If I didn’t get that therapy, I’d still be at home.”
Not only has the 2016 Ambassador been on the receiving end of Easter Seals therapy, she’s also been a dedicated supporter of children diagnosed on the autism spectrum disorder. Before entering her first year of high school, Sara was a passionate volunteer mentor with Halifax Academy, assisting teens on the spectrum.
Working with the autistic students of Halifax Academy touched Sara immensely; she helped students with communication, spelling and social skills. And, she says in return, working with students there made her more social and patient.
“It was important to me that I help others understand that these kids are just like us,” says Sara. “People say (kids with autism) are different from us. It’s true that they don’t think like us, but that doesn’t mean we need to call them different,” she says.
Sara says she was thrilled when she learned she’d been selected as the Easter Seals Ambassador. To her, it means people see her as someone who has made and continues to make a difference in others’ lives.
“I was so shocked when we received the phone call that I was chosen,” she recalls. “I felt so honored, like I had done something right. I felt like I had actually helped people out in the community, and they picked me because I mean something to people.”
It’s no surprise Sara is taking the Easter Seals Ambassador role seriously, and she’s clear on her objectives during her tenure.
“My goal is to make sure I treat everyone with respect, and in the way the need to be treated,” says Sara. “The job of the Ambassador is to try to help people, make them feel better, and make their day better. It’s important to me that I’m there for others and support them.”
When her role as an Ambassador comes to a close in one year’s time, Sara hopes we’ll all remember her in one distinct way: as a true friend.
“I want people to remember me as the girl who was always willing to be a friend,” she says. “I want people to think of me as the girl they can walk up to and talk to. I want them to say, ‘She walked up to me and talked to me and we became friends.’ I want to be remembered as the one who was always there and helped out,” she says.
Sara is scheduled to graduate New Smyrna Beach High School in spring 2019. Her post-graduate career goals already are focused on the medical field.
“I really enjoy understanding the human body, how it works and how it functions,” says Sara, whose favorite subjects in school are math and science.
These days, she’s studying hard at New Smyrna Beach High School and continuing to demonstrate leadership with Easter Seals, in her community, and to her peers. She offers encouragement to other teens who may be hesitant to try to make a difference.
Says Sara: “If teens get a chance to be a leader, they should step up to the plate and see it as a gift. God has put you on this earth for something, and it will mean the world to someone else.”