Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.
Throughout the 2017-18 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.
“As we go through life, we experience many different challenges. Some are small, and others can be lifelong. No matter what our challenges are, we must stay positive, strong and work through the challenges that we are given.
“I was blessed with having a big brother who means the world to me. His name is Gannon, and he was given a lifelong challenge the minute he was born. My big brother was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which occurs due to a lack of oxygen during birth. His cerebral palsy has affected the muscle tone in his arms and his legs. Movement is difficult. Simple movements are challenging for him, and he has difficulty keeping his balance. To alleviate the condition, Gannon has had ten surgeries that included cutting his nerve endings to decrease his muscle tone and breaking every bone from his hips down to his toes.
“He fought for his first breath and proved to be determined to show this world that challenges can only make a person stronger and that he was not going to back down. He underwent months of direct therapy, multiple surgeries, and endless nights of prayer to learn to walk like his friends. Finally, when he was four years old, his day did come: While being hospitalized for seven weeks after an extensive surgery, he was selected to be the prince for the Shrine Bowl by the Shrine Organization. They chose Gannon because of his determination, positive attitude, and strong will to learn how to walk like his peers. At the Shrine Bowl, Gannon was required to walk to the center of the football field to be presented with an autographed football by the Organization and the selected outstanding college football players.
“My mom and dad planned to walk side by side with him, but Gannon had a different idea. He told my mom and dad that he wanted them to walk in front of him. So they did. As they walked in front of him, Gannon took his crutches and threw them to the sidelines. Gannon then began to walk independently without his crutches. This was the very first time he walked without any help. The crowd began to roar. As my mom and dad turned back to Gannon, their eyes filled with tears. Gannon was walking for the very first time with NO help from his crutches. My brother’s next challenge was at the age of thirteen, when he needed to have every bone from the hips down broken and straightened. This surgery was required due to Gannon’s muscles being so tight, causing both his muscles and bones to grow twisted. This surgery would take a minimum of twelve hours, and that was if everything went well. My parents took me to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house and told me that they would be back in a week, with my brother, to take us home. At this time, Gannon would not be able to move his body from the hips down. He would require assistance for all human needs.
“As I stayed at my Grandma and Grandpa’s, one week turned into two weeks, and they still didn’t come. Little did I know that things had, in fact, gone wrong. Gannon acquired toxic shock syndrome, a life-threatening infection. The next 24 hours were crucial. His fate was in God’s hands, and it was up to Gannon to fight for his life. Gannon fought, and our prayers were answered. We were reunited, and I felt blessed knowing my brother was doing well and that I was able to go home again! That day, I realized how truly precious family and life are.
“Gannon has been challenged in life, from his first breath to adulthood. I can proudly tell you that he is 23 years of age, an engineer, and has supported me through many challenges of my own. As I grow, I keep the faith, knowing challenges make me who I am and allow me to become the person that I dream of being. We have all grown up to see and experience challenges. Life can be tough, but with faith, a positive attitude, and support from friends and family, we can make them bearable and even rise above them.”