If you know a young person with cerebral palsy, one thing that you are certainly aware of is that “inclusion” is one of the most important things for one such young person to experience. After all, one of the main things just about any young person desires is to feel as though they belong – to feel as though they have a place in the world around them. And if “being different” from everyone else can make life more difficult on a young person in their formative years, having something such as cerebral palsy – something, that is, that makes a young person so obviously “different” from his or her peers – can truly make those formative years tough…and it is exactly for this reason that any opportunities for one such young person to feel like they have found a “place” – to feel like they “belong” – can make a huge difference in the life of the young person in question.
For Shamar Persaud, a ninth grade student at Schenectady High School in New York, that “something that makes him feel like he belongs and has found his place” is something entirely unlikely: playing music in the marching band! And although Shamar does not have the muscle control to play music in a conventional sense, this has not stopped the Schenectady High marching band from finding a place for Shamar to thrive!
Shamar’s journey to playing music in the Schenectady High School marching band began in last year, when Keith Pray – who was, at the time, a teacher at Shamar’s middle school – saw Shamar toying with the piano. After asking Shamar if he played music (and discovering that Shamar did not play), Keith asked him: “Do you want to play?”
Shortly after that, Keith introduced Shamar to the JamBoxx – a device that enables this young boy with cerebral palsy to “play” just about any instrument he wants to play! During the remainder of that school year, Shamar participated in Keith Pray’s Jazz Band at Mount Pleasant – and then, when Shamar moved up to high school, Keith did the same!
As Shamar’s father, Shafeek, put it: “Ever since [Shamar got the JamBoxx], he’s been practicing a great deal at home. My apartment has been filled with noise a lot, but joyful noise.”
Joyful noise, indeed! After all, this JamBoxx has done more than just enable Shamar to play music and join the marching band at his high school; even beyond that – even beyond the simple function the JamBoxx serves on the surface – it has enabled Shamar to do something he has never truly been able to do before: It has enabled him to “find a place,” and to truly feel like he “belongs” at last!