Twenty-year-old Nikiya Courtney of Warm Springs was recently honored with an award and scholarship by the Oregon Health Reform group for his outstanding leadership contributions. Only two students in the state were selected for the honor.
>One of two teens recognized statewide
Nikiya, the son of Steve and Sheryl Courtney, and a 1999 graduate of Madras High School, was nominated for the award by his former teacher Martha Ahern because of his positive attitude his serving as a role model for other students.
He has used a wheelchair since age 3, but never let his cerebral palsey get in the way of goals he wanted to pursue. He has been active in his church, in Cub and Boy scouts, the MHS JROTC program, and was a spokesperson for Easter Seals.
Along with his family, he did fund-raising and helped set up the Oregon Games for the Physically Challenged State Games held in Salem.
Nikiya and four other tribal youths were the first team to compete and represent the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs at the games and took first place in all events they entered.
Being involved in many activities helped Nikiya develop leadership abilities, overcome any barriers and maintain a positive outlook. He also acknowledged teachers Ahern, Della Russo, Sue Smith and his aide Frances Linares for pushing him to try new things and challenging him daily while he was at MHS.
For the past three years, Nikiya has been working as a student intern and health technician under supervisor Rob Collison for the diabetes program at the Warm Springs Health and Wellness Center.
Working at the Health and Wellness Center has given him an opportunity to see health care professionals at work and explore the many health career opportunities available.
On Oct. 25, when Nikiya and his family traveled to the awards dinner at the Benson Hotel in Portland, Nikiya had the chance to speak in front of CEO's, board members and health care managers.
"I encourage anyone with a disability or health problem to to let their disability get in the way of achieving their goals," he said.
Speaking to employers, he asked them to consider hiring disabled people. "Don't look at their disabilities. Look at their abilities or possibilities. I can guarantee that a person with a disability will be one of your company's best assets. They will work twice as hard just to prove they can do a good job," he stated.
Nikiya will use his scholarship money to attend Central Oregon Community College in Bend for one year, then has been accepted and will transfer to the University of Montana.
His plans are to earn a master's degree in psychology or nutrition.
"I hope some day to have an opportunity to sit on the Governor's Board as a self-advocate. I would like to be a voice for our disabled people here in Oregon," he said.