Lanzi provides words of wisdom to 2019 YLF delegates

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The 21st Youth Leadership Forum recently concluded another successful session.

Sponsored by the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, the five-day event seeks to equip high school students with disabilities with valuable leadership skills through sessions on self-esteem, career exploration, technology, independent living, and etiquette.

Other sponsors of this year’s camp included the Alabama Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, the Alabama Council on Developmental Disabilities, the State Department of Education, the Alabama Department of Mental Health, and Troy University.

The delegates enjoyed a number of team-building activities and exercises to prepare them for life after high school. The week also included lessons on money management, interviewing skills, a tour of the Alabama Capitol, a technology expo, and advice from college students with disabilities.

On Wednesday, June 5, the group heard a motivational talk by Auburn University senior Stephen Lanzi at the Youth Leadership Forum Angeline Pinckard Mentor Luncheon at the RSA Activity Center.

Lanzi, the 2018 Alabama Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities Student of the Year, used his platform to encourage the delegates to remain focused on their goals.

As a high school student, Lanzi was diagnosed with Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON). LHON is a mitochondrial genetic condition, inherited from the mother that can cause the optic nerve to atrophy but does not always do so. It does not affect either the eye or the brain but rather the optic nerve.

Following his diagnosis, Lanzi said, there were plenty of adjustments, and the standout athlete said he had to reimagine the direction of his life.

“When you go through changes like that, it does present a little bit of an identity crisis,” he said. “You start thinking about who you are, how you are going to enjoy life, and your goals.”

Lanzi said it took a while for him to re-understand who he is, and a freshman assignment at Auburn offered an avenue to do so through a paper titled “My Identity.” By the time the assignment was completed, Lanzi said he realized his approach might be different, but his goals for success could still be reached.

“Having a disability does change some of your prospects in life, but that does not mean you can’t do something you love,” he said.








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