Jada is just 10 years old, but she’s already got things figured out. She knows who she is, she knows what she’s capable of. “I describe myself as silly, fun, brave, adventurous, hard working. I’m a daredevil. I will try everything and anything. And I never give up. The only point where I give up is when I’ve tried everything, and I mean everything.” But when people first meet Jada, fearlessness and tenacity aren’t always the first things they see. The first thing they often see is a girl with a disability, a girl with one leg shorter than another who can only stand on one leg.
Jada first started playing basketball when she was five years old, on an adaptive basketball team, but it wasn’t the empowering experience she had hoped for. “I felt disabled. And I don’t [usually] feel disabled. I’m not disabled. Also I was younger, and being in the chair kind of made me shorter, so I can’t shoot even that far at all. Nobody was passing me the ball. They were all older.”
Jada emphasizes this a lot, the fact that she’s not disabled. “I always thought of
disabled being more able. Like, a lot of people can’t balance on one leg. But I have a short leg, so, when I’m standing up, I always have to stand on one leg, so that improves my balance. So whenever I do a balance contest, I always win.”
When Jada joined PeacePlayers last November, it was just what she had been looking for. “We always work on teamwork and different core values every week or month. This month, it’s called Culture of Collaboration. I like just the fact that it’s teamwork because I love that everybody has a voice, because sometimes people get left out.”
Jada didn’t become the powerhouse that she is in a vacuum. Her mom has been an overwhelming force in Jada’s growth into a self-assured and adventurous young person. “When I was younger, me and my mom started to say affirmations, like “when I fall I get right back up.” We did it almost every day. And I lived up to those affirmations, and so that just motivates me.”
As you can probably guess, Jada and her mom are tight. So tight that they started a business together: the Love Juice Co., a natural juice and smoothie shop in Chicago’s South Side. “Well, actually, [it’s] my mom’s business, but I’m going to have it when I’m older, like when I have more time to do stuff and when I could drive.”
“So the Love Juice is a company…we are promoting, like, to make Chicago healthier. And not like, have all this fried chicken and burgers, and you know, unhealthy stuff. We make people take a shot on Thursdays. It’s called Thirsty
Thursdays. We do ginger shots. I take it too sometimes.”
“I always come to help by working the cashier, or helping the young employees ‘cause they don’t know that much. I also could help around by just taking orders. I also come up with menu ideas.”
Jada’s grabbing onto every opportunity that life has to offer. Recently she was awarded a $2,500 grant by Challenged Athletes Foundation to participate in the sport of her choice. So, what’s a 10-year-old daredevil going to do with a chance like that? “I’m gonna go skiing at a cold place.”
Jada may only be 10 years old, but she already knows who she is and what she’s capable of. Despite her disability, she is an audacious young girl who is ready to grab every opportunity that life has to offer. Jada is an inspiration to us
all, reminding us that we should never give up and always take a chance on ourselves.
We all have something to learn from Jada.