Ronan Corr, the author of “Why the Tortoise Wins” is Web Coordinator at Earth Day Canada. Born with mild cerebral palsy and hearing loss, his story inspires us to be our best no matter how difficult the challenges we face.
I have worked at Earth Day Canada for six years now. The office size and pace of work suits me well for the kind of person that I am. I am proud and passionate of my job, and family and friends see me as a role model. I am also a new father of a baby girl who I love dearly. I did all of this with life-long physical challenges — hearing loss and mild cerebral palsy which affects my speech.
My physical challenges resulted from my birth, as I was late arriving and my mother was placed on Pitocin to assist in my delivery. During a staff change, the information regarding how much of Pitocin my mother received was relayed incorrectly. As a result, it caused strong contractions and began to literally squeeze the life out of me. Fortunately, the nurses realized what happened and rushed my mother away for an emergency cesarean. Within four minutes of noticing what had happened, the surgeons were able to bring me back to life.
This incident caused a lack of oxygen to my brain and this is the reason for the mild cerebral palsy and hearing loss. The event was a defining moment in my life that made me the person I have become. Since that day, I would not be here if it were not for the quick actions from the hospital staff. I learned later not to take anything for granted.
I began to see the challenges I faced when starting elementary school. I feared to speak in class because I would have trouble getting my words out even though I knew what I wanted to say. A couple times a week, I would leave the classroom and spend an hour with a speech therapist and an English tutor to assist me with the challenges I faced even though I did not thoroughly understand them at the time. The tutoring must have paid off as I had a poem published in the Toronto Board of Education Writing edition.
I was not a fan of reading aloud; I always picked a part that had the fewest lines. However, I refused to let my speech prevent me from participating in several school plays.
When I entered middle school, I met other students with hearing loss and noticed that the classes I took in the mainstream were more advanced than the ones geared to students with hearing loss. At this point, I could see how far I had come despite my disabilities. I realize now that learning at the same rate as most children prepared me for high school.
I attended a high school with a hard of hearing department. During my first year in high school my classes were split between the hard of hearing department and the mainstream. As I moved on to higher grades, I was taking on more advanced classes (thanks to hard work and my mom and dad pushing me to take on the more challenging courses!).
One of my biggest academic accomplishments was going from grade nine general English to passing grade 13 advanced English. To support me with my advanced classes, I had a note taker so I could give my full attention to my teachers. I was also given a third extra time on my exams in a separate room.
To ensure I did not overwhelm myself, I took a lighter workload: eight classes compared to the usual 10. As a result, I finished high school in six years. At first, I was not pleased with this and after being frustrated with my parents, I realized taking the extra year allowed me to obtain all the necessary requirements to enter university. I was one of the few students from the hard of hearing department to do so.
One of the requirements that mattered most to me when looking for a university to attend was the class size. I felt I would be far better off at a university that offered smaller classes. It lifted my spirits to know that professors would know my name rather than consider me a number. As in high school, I sat in front of my classes, had a note taker, and extra time on my midterms and finals exams.
I enrolled into the bachelors of business administration program not really setting my mind on a particular field of study. I probably chose this field because both of my parents have post-secondary degrees in business. Half way through my first year, l learned the specialized areas the program offered were human resources, accounting and economics. None of these fields appealed to me. Luckily, there was a new program that the university was offering at the start of my second year called a Bachelors of Business Administration Technology Management stream. I remembered this excited me and decided I would go out of my way to do whatever it took to change my degree. I drove four hours to meet with a guidance counselor to change my field of study, as I am more comfortable discussing things in person than over the phone.
The degree is part business and part information technology (IT). I enjoyed progressing through the program, as it was preparing me to enter one of the hottest sectors at the time. One of the curriculum requirements to graduate was gaining 1 000 hours of work experience related to my field of study. It was my co-op placement in designing internal corporate database-driven web sites where I discovered that this is what I enjoy doing and wanted to make a career of it.
I graduated with an Honors degree and my persistence and determination was well worth it. That said, my most difficult challenge was yet to come — landing my first job and the structure that comes with it (I thrive on structure!).
I knew that once I got my foot in the door, I would be able to prove what I am capable of doing. To assist me in my job search, I found an agency that helps people with disabilities look for work specifically in the IT field. Golden! They would call companies to land an interview on my behalf. While the administration staff was focusing on that, I was working with other jobseekers on keeping my computer skills up-to-date.
Three years after graduation, I landed my first full-time job with Earth Day Canada. Soon after that, I was starting my own life as I moved out on my own, met someone to share my life with and now have a beautiful child. There is nothing more that I want in my life at this time. After the long and slow process to get where I am today, I enjoy every moment.
Regardless of what happens next, I know that my perseverance and determination will help me reach my future goals. It may take awhile, but I believe, and am living proof, that good things happen to those who work hard for what they want and are patient enough to reap the rewards, however long it may take for them to arrive.
“Ronan Corr” Courtesy of Earth Day Canada
“Tortoise and Hare” by Arlene Graston, Aesop Series