Get To Know Our Founder and President: Brianna Williams
Soaring Beyond Our Limit, Inc. was founded by Brianna in Royal Palm Beach, FL. In her words:
"Three days after I was born, I needed open-heart surgery. With the prayers of family and friends, I successfully made it through my six-hour operation. At the age of three, I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, and my doctor said I would never be able to walk, talk, or do anything my peers were able to do. At the ripe old age of three-and-a-half, I got my first power wheelchair. I left many trampled toes and scuffed up furniture in my wake learning to use it. My family might tell you that I still leave scuffed up walls around. At the age of 4, I learned I made a difference in the lives of my peers and family, by the way, they lit up just by spending time with me. It made me feel good that I could make people happy by just being me.
In the first grade, I was introduced to assisted technology that helped me keep up with my nondisabled classmates. When I was eight years old, my mother registered me for a sleep away camp. It was such a fun experience! I learned a lot and did so many interesting things. I met multitudes of new and exciting people and we went on lots of different trips to many interesting places, such as a farm, bowling alley, planetarium, and aquarium. In fact, I cried when it was over because I wasn’t ready to go home. The next year I couldn’t wait to go back to camp. I went every year until I was 18! I learned so many things throughout those years. It was in summer camp at the age of twelve, I realized that people who cannot speak like to be spoken to. I learned that just because someone cannot speak, doesn’t mean that he/she cannot listen and respond to what is being said using an alternate form of communication.
In December of 2003, when I was 9 years old, I had two seizures on the same day. As you can imagine, this changed my life completely. I went from a pseudo independent kid who was making great progress with her disability, to being watched around the clock like a toddler, who at any time could end up in a life or death situation. Everyone was too afraid to leave me alone. Thankfully, as the years went by, I got better and never had a seizure again. The doctors even took me off my medication, but I still feel as if I am treated like a baby sometimes because everyone does not take the time to get to know me.
All through elementary school, my peers treated me like I was one of them. It wasn’t until I reached the 6th grade, that I realized that I was “disabled.” My teacher and my paraprofessional (para) decided that I should be in a classroom with all other disabled students because I could not write by myself. They decided to judge me by my disability. It was at this time that I began to feel different from the rest of my peers.
In 7th grade, I was accepted into a school only for children with physical disabilities. This may sound weird, but at first, I was scared of other people who were disabled, so I didn’t want to go. I spent most of my life being surrounded by people who were not disabled. After I visited the school, I realized it was not what I thought. All the kids were pretty much independent. What I liked most about the school was, NO PARA.
This school changed my life completely. This school taught me that there are many things I could do by myself. I didn’t have to rely on others to help me all the time. I saw how other students, who were more physically disabled than I, could function with what they had. For example, I saw a boy use his feet to drive a wheelchair and shoot a basketball. I was just so amazed! I said to myself, "If he can do that, imagine what I can do!"
This is when I realized that my desire in life is to work with special needs children. Fast forward 10 years, and I have completed my degree in Elementary Education. I now feel even more empowered to help others with disabilities.
I made strides in helping others even while I was pursuing my degree by starting the organization, Soaring Beyond Our Limits, Inc. SBOL’s main purpose is to enable people with disabilities to do whatever they set their minds to! We can soar beyond the limits that we, and others, have placed upon us. I want this to be the foundation of a community that supports each other as we grow and soar into our future.
Recently, I reflected on my life and I realized that there wasn’t a lot of social support for me when I was growing up. I had my immediate family to talk to, but I didn’t really have any true friends that knew me outside of school. I found that I was lonely sometimes. I had a lot of people look at me and based upon my disability say, “How did she do this?” or “She’ll never be able to do that.” Those experiences pushed me to become the person I am today.
I pray that the seeds of encouragement that God has given to me will grow to help empower and bring out the best in others. I am living proof that we can ALL soar beyond our limits.”