Elizabeth Brassell, a 2016 graduate of Wickliffe High School and graduate of Youngstown State University, was the only student speaker at the 2023 Youngstown State University Commencement Ceremony. Elizabeth lives with cerebral palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair for her mobility. After graduation, she plans to further her studies in social work to earn her master’s degree from Youngstown State University with an emphasis on becoming an advocate for social change. Elizabeth has recently become first runner up in the Ms. Wheelchair Ohio competition which has afforded her new platforms to continue her advocacy. She is driven by a passion for helping others and takes pride in serving her community. Elizabeth has a fondness for writing and would someday like to become a published author. She is adventurous, likes listening to old-school music from the 80s, and is an avid sports fan, especially of the Cleveland Browns. She enjoys spending time with friends and family and loves to travel. Her favorite place to travel is Italy, where she enjoys her “foodcation”. Below is an excerpt from her commencement speech.
“C.S. Lewis said, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” Well, what if we are not ordinary people?
Each one of us has qualities that make us unique. Some of those qualities we are proud of, while others we spend a lot of time trying to disguise or hide. But all these characteristics are what make us who we are. I have been a quadriplegic all my life. My impairments are part of my personal attributes, which can be viewed as a disability, or something else.
For me, my impairments are something else. My impairments have shaped my life in ways that I could never have expected. They have made me powerful and exceptional. Let me repeat that. I am powerful. I am exceptional. My impairments are not flaws or weaknesses, they are what makes me unique.
Each of us has attributes that make us unique. Never shy away from who you are. There is strength in diversity. Use your individuality to stand out, push through, and make a difference. Be determined on your own path and be determined to focus on what you can do. As you go out into the world, utilizing the new skills and education you have obtained here at YSU, work to carve your own path in the career you have chosen.”