Challenges with epilepsy empowering student to reach goals

September 4, 2013

Growing up with epilepsy, Tori Gleason faced many challenges. Now she’s hoping to turn the negative experiences that came with living with a seizure disorder into something she can use to help others.

The 18-year-old is enrolled in the child and youth worker program at St. Lawrence College in Brockville, Ont. She’s planning to use her education to pursue a career helping young offenders. Her passion for working in this field stems from her ability to better understand others because of her own struggles.

Tori Gleason
Tori Gleason

Given that some youths turn to criminal activity as a result of the hardships they face, Gleason says in a youth-worker role she will be able to communicate to young offenders that she also had struggles growing up — her struggle was with epilepsy — and that she’s living proof those struggles can be overcome.

“I have been through a lot and will be able to tell them, ‘I hear you. I know; I was there, too. I had my own struggles,’ ” she says.

“Hopefully, I am able to take all these challenges I have had so far and use them in a positive and insightful manner for others. Epilepsy is something I have. I am slowly learning to live with it but not let it define me.”

Diagnosed with epilepsy at 13, Gleason, a Smith Falls, Ont. native, has spent much of the past five years in and out of hospital. She says her seizure disorder caused her to miss a lot of school and to be ostracized by her peers. Despite the impact epilepsy had on Gleason’s academic life — her health caused her to miss so much school she had to repeat Grade 10 — she has persevered.

Fortunately, Gleason’s epilepsy has been treatable and she has gone from having as many as seven seizures per day to none since May.

She adds that she has come a “long way.” Gleason has completed Grade 12 and the avid hockey fan is once again playing her beloved sport.

In June, Gleason won OBCL’s President’s Award of Distinction. She was presented with the award June 4 at a ceremony that saw five other students recognized with scholarships.

OBCL has been supporting students with epilepsy through the scholarship awards since 2006. Every year, up to 10 Ontario students win a $1,000 scholarship for post-secondary education. As part of their application package, students must submit a personal essay under that year’s theme.

Writer: Deron Hamel

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