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Cerebral palsy
Zachary Woolley

Zachary Woolley of Birmingham has accomplished much in his 27 years. He’s an Oak Mountain High School and Mississippi State University graduate whose passion for civil rights landed him at the Birmingham School of Law, where he’s currently a student.

“I want to go into politics in the long run,” said Zach, a strong advocate for the disabled, accessibility and equity. “I want to make a difference on the federal level.”

Zach’s advocacy springs from his own experience living with cerebral palsy. He was born 12 weeks premature to parents Lauren and Michael Woolley, who brought Zach to Children’s of Alabama’s early intervention clinic when he was about 5 months old.

“We knew there were some problems, but the day they told us he had cerebral palsy, it had a name. And with that name, it brought a lot of mental images,” Michael said in a 1996 magazine interview. The Woolleys made a pact then to fight off those mental images by dedicating themselves to their only child and his future. “He deserves every chance he can get, and we’ll do whatever it takes to get it for him,” Michael said.

The Woolleys kept their word.

Zach was Children’s first Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Champion in 1996, one of 51 children selected to represent all 50 states and the District of Columbia who have overcome great obstacles. As Alabama’s champion, Zach had the opportunity to meet then-President and First Lady Bill and Hillary Clinton at the White House. And there was that trip to the most magical place on Earth – Walt Disney World.

Zachary went on to graduate high school at the top of his class. He moved to Starkville, Mississippi for college, where he lived independently. Another move to Washington, D.C., for an internship with the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) followed. Zach was one of 20 students selected nationwide for the highly competitive internship. Also while in Washington, he volunteered with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), an international human rights treaty of the United Nations intended to protect the rights and dignity of the disabled.

“Most people said, ‘You can’t let him go out of state,’ but he did amazing,” Lauren said. “He has shown that when you persevere and work hard, you can accomplish what you want to accomplish.”

When he finishes law school, Zach’s said he shares the same goal as his fellow future graduates.

“Get a job wherever I can get one!” he exclaims.
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