On January 27, Cushing had a special visitor to campus: Spencer West.
Spencer West was born with a rare genetic disorder that resulted in the amputation of his legs at age five. His parents were told, then, that he would never walk and would likely never sit up. He proved the doctors wrong, but as you might imagine, Spencer was the victim of some bullying in his school years and has become used to answering people's awkward questions. In spite of that, he has never let other people define him. He approaches his life with humor and a commitment to making the world a better place.
After graduating from college, Spencer got a good job in Phoenix, Arizona, but he felt something was missing. A friend invited him to go on a trip to Kenya as part of a Me to We trip. While there, he met children who went to school in a building without walls, and where, when it rained, they would sit in the mud to learn. On that trip, he found peace thinking less about himself and more about others. He helped build the village a new school so the children were no longer subject to the vagaries of the weather and could learn in a solid structure.
That trip to Kenya was just the beginning for Spencer. He came home and found a job working with the Me to We organization, part of a family of organizations that also includes Free the Children. In 2012, he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money for Free the Children's sustainable water initiative in Kenya. In 2013, he walked about 180 miles —on his hands—from Edmonton to Calgary, as part of Free The Children’s We Walk 4 Water campaign.
For the last six years, Spencer has been redefining what is possible and, in the process, helping kids all over the world to recognize the power they have to make a difference and inspiring them to become involved with their passions. "If I can do all of these things," he told the Cushing students, "then so can you. The world needs you."
Natalie Hillman '14 has been so inspired by Spencer—indeed, it was her idea to bring him to speak—that she is spearheading an initiative at Cushing to raise money to build a school as part of Free the Children's Year of Education. Together with the 1865 Leadership Society and Mrs. Torino, she's planned several fundraisers throughout the spring term.
If you would like to get involved or learn more about the good work these organizations are doing, visit the Me to We website at www.metowe.com
or Free the Children at www.freethechildren.com
Spencer's trip to Cushing was made possible through the generosity of the Hillman family.