Hi my name is Sonja Weilgart-Whitehead I’m a 23-year-old with cerebral palsy who just recently graduated from Carleton University with a Bachelor of Arts Honours in English, with a minor in French. This is my first blog as a new member of the Carleton Memorial community. I am really happy to say hello and be part of the CMUC family.
I’m originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia. You’re probably wondering how on earth I ended up in Ottawa Ontario? Well long story short, I moved to Ottawa with the intention of spending at least four years here to go to university but it’s turned into an adventure and a half. I moved here almost 6 years ago naïve, scared, excited, and all the other emotions that go along with moving to a different city and a different province after high school. I was wondering if I’d be able to live on my own, complete a university degree, make friends and essentially survive even though I had no clue what the future had in store for me at the time. My four year degree turned into 4 1/2 years. It was filled with many challenges, many mental breakdowns, many obstacles, many happy moments, friends that turned into family and the best support system I could ever ask for.
I regret nothing about coming to Ottawa because it has shown me what I am capable of. It has been growth in ways I never thought were possible. I remember back in high school a guidance counsellor once told me “you’re crazy for wanting to move away from home and go to University in a totally different province!” I laughed and said, “I know, but watch me!”
In my adventures at Carleton I met Rev. Eric who quickly became my friend and wanted me to be a part of the Carleton Memorial United Church speaker series last year (The Learning to Stick it Out Series). He asked me to come to the church and tell my story. In all honesty I was quite shocked that he would ask me to be part of an event at his church within minutes of talking to him.
Well after the speaker series event I felt so positive, supported, and inspired by the congregation that I decided “Man I like the positive vibe of this church!” I just knew I would return soon.
After finishing my degree and being let down by Carleton University’s Masters of Social Work program for the upcoming school year I was devastated to say the least. A couple days later I decided that this wasn’t going to be how it was going to end, so I found out the reasons for why Carleton rejected my application. They said it was because I didn’t have 3500 volunteer or work experience hours!! So I decided to reach out to Eric and ask if Carleton Memorial had any volunteer positions that would be suitable for me. Eric responded “Always!”
I took this response as a chance. A chance that something positive was going to happen. A chance for me to prove to Carleton University that I was serious about reapplying next year. A chance that I could show them that I could in fact be a productive member of society. A chance to prove to Carleton University that I knew in my heart I was meant to be a social worker no matter how long it took me. I believe that all a person needs in life is faith that things will get better, good friends and family, a solid support system and a chance.
So thank you so much to Carleton Memorial United Church for giving me that chance and the experience that will inevitably help me become the best social worker I can possibly be!
Stay tuned for the next blog about the adventures of living life with cerebral palsy and rolling with the punches!
Bye for now!