This is the third of a series of 20 profiles of The Gazette’s Best and Brightest Class of 2019.
Like many teenagers, Zoe Grisez, 17, loves grooving to the sounds of Taylor Swift, watching Harry Potter films and attending local Comic Cons.
However, unlike many teenagers, Zoe each day grapples with spinal muscular atrophy type 2, a genetic neuromuscular disorder that affects motor neurons in the spinal cord causing muscle degeneration and weakness. Diagnosed at 14 months, Zoe has lost most of her motor skills, is confined to a powered wheelchair and requires assistance to perform personal tasks.
Despite her condition, the Discovery Canyon Campus High School senior went on to become a top student, earning selection as one of Colorado Springs’ 2019 Best and Brightest students. “It is an honor to be selected. It’s like the icing on the cake after four years of working so hard in high school,” Zoe said.
The daughter of Gleneagle residents Mark and Lorraine Grisez, Zoe has been described as an overachiever. She excels in community service, holds a 4.307 GPA and has earned several academic honors.
Throughout high school, Zoe served as an ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation. She meets with newly diagnosed families to prove light exists beyond the darkness of a diagnosis.
“It is one of my greatest joys to be asked to meet with a new family and let them see that what is considered a lifelong limiting disease doesn’t have to be a limited life at all,” Zoe said.
As for college, Zoe said, “I asked my parents to take me on college tours and my dreams cast a wider net. I visualized myself living in a dorm surrounded by students who love to learn as much as I do,” Zoe said.
Hard work paid dividends for Zoe, who got accepted to the University of Colorado at Boulder, University of California-Los Angeles, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. Zoe plans to enter as an English major and hone her writing skills.
“I’d love to create characters either in books, TV or movies that promote disability inclusion in a way that breaks down barriers and presents the disabled community just as we are — people living our day-to-day lives,” Zoe said.
Zoe hopes her disabilities will serve as a platform for positive change, she said. “Using my voice, I can continue my personal advocacy, which translates to change for others around me. By demanding equal access, representation and change where I see accessibility issues, I will empower myself and others like me,” Zoe said.
In an April 11 recommendation letter, Assistant Principal David King said, “Her (Zoe) humble, yet confident optimism seems to come from a strong sense of knowing who she is and what she can do/overcome when she puts her mind to it.”
Zoe added, “I am much more than a disabled student. I am a human with real emotions and big dreams. And, I am going to wheel into this world and be as much a part of it as anyone else,” Zoe said.