Community service is a passion for Jay-La
Blakey-Davidson. Even as a busy high school student, she makes time to
participate in myriad projects benefiting people and organizations in
Undeterred by Juvenile Diabetes and a host of other challenges, Ellie White created a foundation and is raising awareness of, and funds for, research into so-called “orphan disorders.”
Alexus McCoy fought her way out of a wheelchair to walk
across the stage at her high school graduation. Now she’s using her
entrepreneurial talents to help people in need.
These three girls were among ten outstanding teenagers honored as “Young Women of Distinction” during the Colorado Girls Elevated 2016 Reach Your Peak Expo, held Oct. 9 at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds Event Center. The expo featured inspirational speakers and compelling workshops on topics including bullying, cyber safety, healthy body image and career choices.
The Cherry Creek School District hosted an area where students could try their hand at computer science, digital media and 3D programming or operate "Sphero," a robot that fits in the palm of your hand. They could also do art activities with members of the National Arts Honor Society.
The Young Women of Distinction honorees were selected because they have inspired others by demonstrating leadership, compassion, perseverance and selfless giving, even as they faced their own personal challenges.
That certainly describes Alexus McCoy, who graduated from Grandview High School in 2015. She battled both a heart murmur and a hernia, which required surgery during her senior year. Doctors told her it was unlikely that she would be able to walk with her classmates at graduation.
“I like a challenge,” McCoy said. “When people tell me I can’t do something, it really makes me want to do it even more.”
Fueled by ferocious determination, McCoy did walk across the floor of the Ritchie Center to receive her diploma. And she hasn’t stopped since. McCoy tutors younger students, rescues lost and stray animals, helps care for an elderly woman who has dementia and has set up a network of vending machines that provides funds for Children’s Hospital. During her senior year of high school, McCoy took a class in automobile repair. Her long-term plans include opening an auto repair business that caters to women. Her advice to other young women; “Do your best to be the best you can be.”
Ellie White, a junior at Grandview High School, is certainly following that advice. She is definitely doing her best to be her best, despite the fact that she has Wolfram Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. When she was diagnosed at age 8, White was the only person in Colorado with the condition. In addition to Type I Diabetes, Wolfram Syndrome causes blindness, hearing loss and eventually affects the brain stem, causing respiratory failure. At this time, there is no cure and life expectancy is usually less than 30 years.
While that outlook is frightening, White doesn’t dwell on it. Instead, she focuses on helping others.
“I hope I’ve helped many people,” White said. “I can relate to many different people since I have diabetes, I’m losing my sight, I’m losing my hearing… It helps me connect with other people with similar symptoms.”
White has been dancing since she was three years old. When her dance team, The Silouettes, appeared (and placed second) on the sixth season of America’s Got Talent, White used the opportunity to create greater awareness of Wolfram Syndrome. She and her family established the Ellie White Foundation (www.elliewhitefoundation.org) to raise money for research into Wolfram Syndrome and other uncommon genetic diseases, often called “orphan disorders” because they are so rare. White recently presented a check for $50,000 to the nation’s leading Wolfram Syndrome researcher.
Jay-La Blakey-Davidson arrived in Colorado six years ago, by way of a very small town in Indiana. What struck her about the Denver metro area was the many ways she could get involved in her community and make a difference to others.
“There were all these opportunities!” Blakey-Davidson said. “It made me realized it’s not all about me.”
Serving others became a way of life for Blakey-Davidson, who is now a junior at Overland High School. She is a member of several school clubs and organizations, including Student Council and the varsity cheerleading squad. Blakey-Davidson enjoys participating in student government and helping generate school pride and spirit as a cheerleader. But she says her favorite part of being involved in those organizations is the community service events they support, from the OHS Wish Week benefitting the Make-A-Wish Foundation to the Cherry Creek Schools Fitness Festival to individual projects to help people who are homeless, hungry or hurting.
“I really enjoy helping people, even through little things,” she said.
This Young Woman of Distinction plans make a career of helping others. Blakey-Davidson wants to study psychology and sociology in college, then become a counselor of some kind.
Congratulations to Jay-La Blakey Davidson, Ellie White and Alexus McCoy, 2016 Young Women of Distinction!