PITTSBURG — Pittsburg High School junior Emily Wachter has been selected by the Tourette Association of America (TAA) to represent the state of Kansas at its Youth Ambassador Training in Washington D.C. Wachter and her mother, Shauna Rooks, will attend the event in March, a release said.
According to the TAA website, “Tourette Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder that becomes evident in early childhood or adolescence. It is part of the spectrum of Tic Disorders and is characterized by motor and vocal tics…current estimates are that 1 out of every 160 children between the ages of 5-17 in the United States has Tourette Syndrome.”
Wachter has been in the Pittsburg High School Jobs for America’s Graduates – Kansas (JAG-K) program for two years.
“When I first started JAG-K, I didn’t have a lot of friends…I was bullied and, most of all, I really hated school,” said Wachter in the release. “I never felt like I fit in and always felt out of place in my classes until I found JAG-K.”
JAG-K is a multi-year program for students in grades 7-12 in 79 schools in 41 districts across the state, serving over 3,900 students in both the classroom setting and in follow-up after graduation. The nationally accredited, evidence-based model provides tools to successfully transition students into post-secondary school, the military or directly into the workforce with marketable skills, the release said. JAG-K students had a 98 percent graduation rate.
PHS JAG-K Career Specialist Jessica Thomas has watched Wachter make great strides in her confidence and in her attitude towards school.
“Emily has grown tremendously in the last two years,” said Thomas in the release. “The students in JAG-K have been committed to understanding Emily’s tics better and have been an outlet to allow her to be very open about how she feels and what she is going through. JAG-K has given Emily a place to be accepted and understood.
“Emily has faced so many barriers in life, but instead of allowing them to break her, she has allowed them to help her grow and push her to be a stronger, healthier and more mature person.”
Wachter says she was both nervous and excited as she waited to see if she had been chosen as a TAA Youth Ambassador.
“My dreams finally came true one Friday morning,” said Wachter in the release. “I saw I had an email and the first word was ‘Congratulations.’ I was with my Mom and started reading my acceptance letter out loud. We started jumping up and down. I can’t wait to share my experiences with the world.”