Student Spotlight: Francesca Acampora Raises More than the Bar
Say you’re doing volunteer work, and you’re scheduled to speak at a school about the organization, but you still have to go to school. What do you do? If you’re Francesca Acampora, you enroll in Laurel Springs. Not only does she volunteer her time for noble causes, she’s also part of an All Star Cheerleading team and the national Tourette Syndrome Association Youth Ambassador. Good thing Laurel Springs gives Francesca the flexibility to do the work she loves in between her school work.
Since 2019, Francesca has been the Youth Ambassador for the national Tourette Association. The title comes with the responsibility of raising awareness and tolerance for this condition. “One of the things that's so great about the national Tourette Association is the training they give you to do things like public speaking. This time is spent learning about the different things that are important to communicate about Tourette Syndrome, and also learning how to speak in front of people.”
Before COVID, Francesca would travel to Washington D.C. to meet with congressional representatives to encourage support for research funding. A pandemic wasn’t going to stop her and her fellow Ambassadors, as now these meetings are virtual. “Right now I am preparing for the March 3rd Tourette Association Virtual Day on the Hill, where we attend our Capitol Hill meetings with our representatives.”
As a Laurel Springs student, Francesca has plenty of experience in virtual meetings. Online learning not only gives her time to volunteer, but having a flexible schedule also helps her pursue other passions. “I participate in All Star Cheerleading, but my gym is over two hours from my house, and I have to travel a lot. Having the flexibility to manage my time has really helped me.” While cheerleading has been put on hold for the time being, Francesca is looking forward to returning to training in the spring and preparing for next season, which will be her senior year.
Francesca also uses her platform as an All-Star athlete to raise tourette syndrome awareness within the cheerleading community. In recognition of her efforts, the National Cheerleaders Association presented her with the 2020 NCA Pinnacle award. This recognizes more than skill, as it’s given to a cheerleader who demonstrates a high level of teamwork, dedication, confidence, and leadership.
Winning the NCA Pinnacle Award is really special to me. It was such an honor to be recognized by my cheerleading family, especially for my philanthropy. It made me very happy that the cheer community would go out of their way to encourage athletes to do more for our communities. And I was happy to be a part of that.”
Raising the Bar & Awareness
Simply being a high school student has its own set of trials without a nervous system disorder to contend with. But instead of defining her, tourette syndrome is refining her. “Having Tourettes has been hard for sure. However, it has taught me different coping mechanisms for different situations in everyday life. This has been very helpful for me in dealing with tough situations, like stress in school, and also bouncing back when I mess up.”
As an ambassador for the disorder, Francesca is passionate about awareness and making sure the right information is out there.
I think the biggest misconception about Tourettes is that it is ‘the cursing disease’. That is actually called Coprolalia and less than 10% of people with Tourette Syndrome actually have that. It is the thing that the media seems to focus on because people think it is funny. But what people should understand, is that when you have Tourettes, whether you curse, or have motor tics like I do, or even if you have a ‘tic of the mind’ (which is like a compulsion), it is always something the person cannot control and that person should never be shamed. Trust me, they are more upset about it than you.”
It’s clear to see why Francesca was chosen as a Tourette Syndrome Association youth ambassador and Pinnacle award-winner. It’s also understandable why she’s thriving in the online learning community at Laurel Springs. “Laurel Springs has been a great experience. It’s allowed me to do things that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was in a brick-and-mortar school.” We’re honored to be part of the reason why she’s able to continue raising awareness and raising the bar for her peers.
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