Courageous Leadership

Posted on: March 21st, 2017 by Ruth-Ann Shantz

Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be excluded from society?  Why do we use terms like normal or different when everyone is different?  I am honored that Leif Shantz has agreed that I can reprint a story he wrote for the Prism Project. Leif is in Grade 12 and he shares what it feels like to be excluded from society, how he thinks he is different and most importantly, how that makes him feel. Leif embodies courageous leadership because he has the courage to talk about uncomfortable things, to be brave and to show up and be seen. By using his voice, he is becoming a role model for others to follow. His story needs to be heard and shared!!


I would like to tell you about how I feel excluded in society. I am deaf and have mild cerebral palsy. My speech is a little bit different because of the cerebral palsy and sometimes I get nervous people won’t understand what I’m saying.

LeifMost people look at me differently than a normal person and don’t consider looking beyond the surface. Western culture expects people to behave and look a certain way, and fit within their idea of “normal.” I put the quotations around normal because each person has a view around normality and a different idea of what perfection is. People place benchmarks for the image of a perfect person based on celebrities in media and entertainment. Young people strive to dress like them and will often idolize a certain celebrity based on the image they portray. However, this idea of their perfection is imaginary since they have no idea what their personality is like.

Personality is what’s really important when selecting a friend or partner; looks aren’t everything. Some people might look good but have bad personalities. If I could talk so some of the kids at school who I feel isolated from, I would like them to know that just like any other person, I desire to have friendships.

If people were to take the time to get to know me, they would discover a person who is open-minded, considerate, compassionate and intelligent. I enjoy politics because it’s an important aspect of understanding our society. I enjoy art and often sketch because it helps me lose track of time, acts as an escape from what I’m feeling and helps me use my imaginative skills. Just like most other kids, I like playing video games on my phone.

While I know beauty is skin deep, I’m not immune to the pressures of looking perfect. I like fashion because it gives me the ability to look nice. Because I know I look different than what is considered normal, I don’t enjoy having my picture taken. I’m still learning how to be comfortable with looking different compared to other people.

I have a work placement as an educational assistant at an elementary school. I help in the classroom by helping with assignments and encouraging positivity. In the beginning, I experienced the kids looking at me and knew they were thinking I was weird because I was different than other people they were used to seeing. As the kids got to know me they became more comfortable and eventually one even came for hugs.

If little children can see the heart in me, so can you.

There are many people out there who might look different on the surface. Knowing someone is about more than appearance, it’s about their personality and qualities. Relationships are about sharing common interests and that can never happen unless you take the time to get to know someone.
Please check out Prism Project – Stories of life with hearing loss. Promoting acceptance between different perspectives.

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