This very driven and bright young woman from Alabama USA, who has cerebral palsy, low tone and Ataxia, is bringing more awareness and understanding of disabilities by sharing her life story online.
Six years ago at age 16, Charisse set up a YouTube channel that has had extraordinary results.
“I hope that by sharing my life with the world I can bring more awareness and understanding of disabilities. I also want to spread the message of keeping hope during struggles, and remind everyone that no matter who you are you are unique and beautiful”, Charisse said.
Charisse is a great supporter of World Cerebral Palsy Day, sharing news and promoting our campaigns with her community of followers. In 2015, she created a special video to educate architects and designers who were competing in the World CP Day Sponge House competition.
Charisse’s vision for the world is that we all see the person before the disability.
“People with disabilities are capable of doing the things other people can do, we just do things in our own unique way. I want to inspire others to always be your beautiful self!” Charisse said.
Charisse’s childhood was not easy. She was the first child with a physical disability to enter her elementary school.
“Throughout my childhood I was often bullied and misunderstood because I was so different from my classmates, because I had a disability they didn’t understand. The first time I felt like a ‘normal’ child was when I entered 9th grade and an amazing group of girls befriended me”, Charisse said.
“Unfortunately, after my 9th grade year my family had to move states due to my dad’s job. At my new high school I struggled with making friends because my new classmates believed my disability also affected me mentally. I was mocked, laughed at, and had horrible jokes made about my disability.”
“I spent my lunches alone and never really had the chance to hang out with kids my age outside of school. I knew one of the reasons my classmates treated me the way they did was because they didn’t understand my disability. I knew there were other people out there going through the same problems I was. I wanted to change that”, she said.
So, she began posting videos on YouTube of her day-to-day life, began a Facebook page, and started sharing her life with the world to try to reach as many people as possible with her messages.
“Posting my first YouTube video wasn’t an easy choice for me to make. I was extremely nervous. I was a shy teenager who was terrified of any form of public speaking, but I was hoping to make a difference. I taught myself how to film and edit my own videos”, Charisse explained.
A year after starting her channel, her classmates and the staff at her school began watching her videos – and, they began understanding and talking to her. It was life changing, not only for her but also so many others.
Charisse then went on to win many awards including the 2011 Inspirational Award for Madison City, the 2013 Youth Leadership Award Huntsville, and then the 2013 Alabama Youth Leadership Award.
“People of all ages from all around the world send me messages daily. I have had many students and teachers invite me to speak to classes about disability awareness and bullying awareness. My videos are also being use in lesson plans at schools in and outside of the USA”, Charisse said.
At the heart of her work is Charisse’s wish that no one experiences the misunderstanding and bullying that she did as a child and teen.
“I don’t want to see others struggle, like I did for years. The truth is, you have to be different to make a difference in this world,” Charisse said.
Long term, Charisse hopes to be able to travel the world speaking at schools and events, sharing her ‘Beautifully Different’ message.
“People say everything happens for a reason, I truly believe this. Looking back on my journey, I now realise the purpose of my disability was to be a helper to others with disabilities and others who are struggling”, Charisse said.
“Be a teacher to others who cannot see that different is not bad thing. Different is beautiful!”