A teenage student with learning difficulties and a condition that can sometimes cause heavy bleeding, has been elected onto the inaugural Welsh Youth Parliament to represent people with disabilities!
Katie Whitlow, 17, from Llandudno Junction is currently studying within the Independent Living Skills department at Coleg Llandrillo's Rhos-on-Sea campus. The department caters for students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities, severe learning disabilities and social and emotional behavioural difficulties.
Preparing for her first meeting at the Welsh Government offices in Llandudno Junction, a delighted Katie took time out from her college classes this week to speak about her new role and her life to date:
I thought 'why not', I'll give it a go'. I am excited that I have the opportunity to use my voice to represent other young disabled people. I am passionate about making sure young people with disabilities get all the opportunities they deserve, and hope I will be able to represent young people with disabilities in the best way.
I have struggled with various health problems and learning difficulties throughout my life: with my illness and my additional learning needs, I used to find day-to-day activities hard going.
However, as time passed, I have learned the importance of being optimistic and am adapting to my illness. I have been praised for my ability to inform others of my disability and my raising awareness for Von Willebrand disease (an inherited condition that can sometimes cause heavy bleeding).
When I was younger I was incredibly shy. However, as I've grown older and found my passion for drama and books, I have become a more confident person.
Katie has a wide-ranging manifesto, containing all the topics that are important to her and young people with disabilities in Wales. After canvassing opinions, issues she wants to be addressed include: the need for more information for schools and teachers on disabilities, more activities for young people with disabilities, improvements on wheelchair access ("independence is paramount"), and a general increase in funding for the disabled. Youth council meetings will be split between Cardiff and Llandudno Junction.
Tutor Sian Stephenson said:
We are overjoyed with Katie's fantastic achievement; she has overcome so many issues and obstacles to get to this point in her life. She is our little star!
Staff at college really understand me and my needs and are fully supportive.
Her passions outside college are drama and reading romance, drama and horror!
She attends a weekly adult drama group, which she really enjoys, especially the acting side of things. She is hoping to go into drama after her studies, as she has already been featured in two films with TAPE - a community arts charity which specialises in bespoke, inclusive, person-led, support for people of all ages.
For more information about Independent Living Skills courses at Coleg Llandrillo, call the college's Learner Services team on 01492 542 338.