11 October 2009

Cody Holloway's attitude drives him, not his disability

By Nancy Badertscher

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

1:34 p.m. Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cody Holloway travels the halls of his Sandy Springs high school in a motorized wheelchair.

“The real deal on wheels,” says the sign on the back.

That combination — chair and slogan, disability and attitude — tells you something important about Cody, 14. Children with cerebral palsy may or may not think about the future in a different way from children without it. But in Cody’s case, they run for class president.

“Believe it or not, it actually started out as a joke,” Cody said recently.

Maybe so, but the idea took hold. It was last year in Jennifer Macke’s eighth-grade science class at Ridgeview Charter School that students sat pondering major milestones that might be reached by the time they celebrate their 100th birthdays.

Each student’s timeline was discussed, and when they got to President of the United States Cody Holloway, all of the class “loved it,” Macke said.

And last month he was elected ninth-grade class president at Fulton County’s Riverwood International Charter School.

“If Cody had said he was going to rule the world, I would have said: ‘That sounds about right,’ ” Macke said. “He’s certainly not one to let his disabilities hold him back in any way, shape or form.”

Cody navigates the halls in his wheelchair. A full-time aide at school helps him maneuver through crowded class changes, scribe his answers on standardized tests and interpret his labored speech, especially first meetings.

As candidate for class president, Cody billed himself “the real deal on wheels” and vowed to be “a voice” for students with teachers and faculty.

But he had more than a catchy slogan. His classroom aide, Brady Radford, was his strategist and helped take the campaign to Facebook. His dad had the title of campaign manager but insists he was strictly on the sidelines.

“He did his own thing, and I got out of the way,” Jeff Holloway said.

Two teachers pitched in so his televised message to voters was closed-captioned, bringing clarity to some of Cody’s pronunciations.

Whizzing around in his chair with “the real deal” slogan on the back, Cody solicited votes up-close from classmates, many of whom he knew in middle school.

“He decided since he drives this baby everywhere, why not use it as rolling advertising,” Radford said with a hand on Cody’s wheelchair.

Cody keeps up — especially with news and sports. As a candidate, he promised to keep his classmates abreast of the latest at school and in the community.

Students, like friend and fellow ninth-grader William Cormier, rallied behind him.

“He’s really friendly with everybody,” William said. “He also was very determined.”

Hannahkohl Almire said she watched Cody’s televised campaign speech and was impressed. She also liked his “real deal” slogan. “It was really cute,” she said.

Elections for class president were held in early September. Cody was declared the winner for the ninth grade, though the actual vote counts are never revealed.

“The biggest part was for students to realize that Cody’s cerebral palsy didn’t affect his mental abilities, only his communication and mobility,” said Joel Kadish, a Riverwood teacher and the faculty sponsor for student government.

The win was no surprise to Cody’s mom, dad, brother and sister. “We expect him to do good,” his dad said. “[He] quickly becomes Mr. Popular” wherever he goes.

Cody, who blogs on his beloved Detroit Red Wings and the Crimson Tide, ponders new places he might go — new what-ifs along his timeline. There’s nothing serious in it about himself as U.S. president, but Cody said he would like see one more “open to the needs of the disabled.”

Cody wants to be a sportswriter.

“He told me that all he wants is for everyone to see that just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean that they are not capable of being successful. They just have to work a little harder sometimes,” Cody’s dad said.

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