Erikia Pellitier defies odds

Bintou Cisse

Guest Contributor

Erika Pelletier is an early childhood major whose dream is to be a teacher for students with special needs. She has come a long way to become a successful student at Hudson Valley. She is a Phi Theta Kappa honor recipient, a student senator, a student club’s president and a cheerleader, but unless she told you, you would never have known that her biggest fear is to wake up one day and not be able to move.

In sixth grade, Pelletier was diagnosed with a neurological disorder called cerebral palsy. CP is a condition that can affect someone’s brain function and physical mobility. It’s neither contagious nor progressive, but patients live with it forever and endure the pain of stigma.

“A lot of people look at disabilities and just stare at it. I think [most of them] don’t even know that I have one. So when I talk about it, they are more shocked. I think that’s more that they don’t have the knowledge base,” she said.

“I am proud,” said Pelletier about her ailment. “The fact that I have CP taught me so much. It taught me determination and hard work. And I think that really helps in college because in college, it’s not just handed to you.”

Pelletier’s condition affects her spelling, writing, and reading. However, ever since she registered at Hudson Valley, she said she has been receiving the help and support she needs to succeed. In fact, she has maintained an overall 4.0 cumulative GPA and has been on the Phi Theta Kappa honor roll from spring 2013 onwards.

CP often causes physical pain in Pelletier’s hips and knees, but that has never stopped her from doing things she has passion for. Last summer, she went skydiving. In high school, she also ran cross-country for two years. However, she said she had to stop because it was too painful on her joints.

Pelletier’s involvement in volunteer work started a long time ago. She remembers her mom always encouraging her to help others and give back to the community.

“I started with little things such as picking up garbage off the street … Mom told me that’s important,” Pelletier said.

She has gone from picking up garbage to bigger leadership roles. “The senate was my fit,” she said.

In addition to holding a seat at the student senate since fall 2013, she is the current Early Childhood Club president, and a member of the Cheerleading and the Dance Club.

“I enjoy knowing everything that’s going on in our school. I also [like] the leadership quality of it. I feel like I am a leader at heart. I feel more comfortable when I am in a leadership spot,” said Pelletier.

“She is a leader,” said Diane Teutschman, a full time advisor and a college forum professor.

“When I give tours and bring a new person around to show them, she is the one that will stand up and say, ‘you’re gonna love it here!’ She takes me a step beyond in her welcoming,” said Teutschman.

Pelletier’s extracurricular activities have awarded her with a recommendation in Who’s Who Among Students, a recognition honor offered to high achieving students. Pelletier has also been selected to represent Hudson Valley at the National Conference on Student Leadership meeting, which will be held from Nov. 20 to Nov. 23 in Orlando, Fla.

Pelletier plans to graduate from Hudson Valley next year with an Associate in Applied Science in Early Childhood then transfer to Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y. for a four-year program. Before then, Pelletier says more challenges will come her way, but she will be ready.

“I think she is going to be successful whatever she wants to do. I see her with a great rapport with the parents. She is very accepting of everyone. For students, I think you need to be accepting of who they are, not just how they learn,” said Teutschman.
“I want be remembered for being kind, for being that person who, every day, did a little something,” said Pelletier.

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