Meghan Coates is no stranger to adversity. Coming from a low income family with a disabled father and a mother working in the human service field, money has always been tight. Meghan, the third child and only daughter of Paul and Mary Coates, has always maintained a positive outlook and harbors a desire to change the world so that all people can live in harmony and peace without fear or anxiety due to belonging to some “out group”, be it racial, religious, sexual orientation or other. She has always wanted to be a candle in the darkness.
Meghan is a talented young woman with a passion for theater and writing. Sh has composed several songs, published several poems and maintains a writing blog as well as having written copious stories and books, all as yet unpublished. Meghan has spent much of her young life helping others, whether it be volunteering at the local library story hour or assisting developmentally disabled adults to read, she has been very active in her community. For a time Meghan sat on a community action committee as a youth advocate and also was elected to the Lake Country Players board as the youth representative.
Meghan was born against all odds. She developed SVT (super ventricular Tachycardia) in utero, which caused her heart to beat like a humming bird at 300 + beats per minute. Her heart was so fast the medical professionals were not able to count the beats and the machines used to monitor her heart rate could not keep up the count. Doctors discovered this problem at 20 weeks gestation. They prepared Mrs. Coates for the worst, telling her they would do their best but the prognosis was not encouraging. They did not think Meghan would survive to delivery. They feared her heart would tire and stop. Meghan defied the odds, surviving to a viable age and was deliver two months early on October 30,1997. Meghan was followed by a neurologist following suspected seizures shortly after she was born,for the first year of her life. She continued to see a pediatric cardiologist until she turned 16. Miraculously her heart slowed on its own to a normal rate when she was about a year old.
Mrs. Coates was cautioned that such a premature birth would likely result in some developmental delays. Again Meghan proved them wrong. Other than being a somewhat clumsy child, she met all of hr milestones early and developed into a very bright, very sweet child. Her mother always referred to Meghan as her "miracle baby" because she had been born and thrived against all odds. Mrs. Coates always believed that Meghan had been sent to be a light in a troubled world.
Meghan developed her thirst for knowledge early and was an A+ student in school. She spent many long hours of dedicated study at home each night completing homework and reading a variety of subjects. In the third grade, at the tender age of 8, Meghan discovered her passion for theater when she won the coveted role of Mable in the school production of Pirates of Penzance. She followed this with a talent show entry which earned her a standing ovation. In the fall of that year Meghan celebrated her 9th birthday by joining in the Lake Country Players Community theater group presentation of The Wizard of Oz. She has been acting ever since. Her goal is to gain a career in film or television and use any accompanying fame to speak out against injustice.
During her eighth grade year Meghan began to develop some mild shoulder spasms. These grew progressively worse and began to effect other areas of her body. She began to fall or stumble without a known cause, and fell down some stairs at school on several occasions. In June Meghan saw a doctor to evaluate the symptoms. Over the summer the Tics became increasingly more active, as did the vocalizations. Meghan would scream uncontrollably, cluck like a chicken and other vocalizations. She would drop to the floor and thrash or freeze, hit herself in the face or throw her head back repeatedly. She was officially diagnosed with a profoundly active case of late onset Tourette's Syndrome on the first day of high school.
Concerned about potential bullying and the negative effect the disorder would likely have on Meghan's grades, Meghan and her mother met with school officials to develop an action plan. The school was very accommodating, developing a 504 plan that allowed Meghan to take breaks as needed, have additional time on tests and take test in a separate room if desired to reduce anxiety.
During the fall of 2011 Meghan's tics were so pronounced that she often had little control over her movements and vocalizations. She missed school due to her inability to coordinate her movements. Anxiety, fatigue and depression set in, further exacerbating the tics. Meghan was forced to drop out of the Lake Country Players fall production of Sweeney Todd. A decision she made her self but one which left her in tears, fearful that she might never again reclaim the stage.
Meghan was encouraged to advocate for herself and she, believing that bullying is largely the result of fear and ignorance, developed a power point lecture to educate her class mates on the subject of Tourette's Syndrome. She gave her presentation to the entire school body, the faculty and the school board. Her story was picked up by the local news paper and television news channel and Meghan received some letters asking her for advice or help from others struggling with Tourette's. Meghan used face book to reach out to anyone seeking her support. She was invited to give presentations to parent groups around New York State, culminating with a presentation at the 2012 Families Together Conference in Albany NY. The conference was attended by parents of children struggling with mental and emotional disorders, state legislators and various state dignitary.
These presentations help Meghan to regain her self confidence and she found that when she was speaking in front of a group, concentrating on her subject her tics diminished. This is apparently a common phenomenon for persons with Tourette's, that when they are engaged in something they are passionate about the tics settle down. After the activity has ended there is often a brief period in which the tics increase , possibly due to physical and mental exhaustion.
Meghan successfully returned to the stage and has remained an active thespian since that time. She is currently working with the Old Havana Courthouse Theater for the 2015 season. But Meghan's tics were taking a toll on her body. She developed excessive body aches and fatigue so profound that there were days when she was unable to get out of bed. Again she met with doctors who were mystified. After being evaluated by several professionals Meghan finally saw a Rheumatologist and was diagnosed with Tourette's induced Fibromyalgia. She was prescribed Neuronin which successfully addressed the bulk of the discomfort.
Things were finally looking up. Meghan began her senior year applying to colleges for theater arts. She was accepted following a rigorous audition process to the coveted American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles California. This school boasts a 95 % placement rate in the acting industry for graduates. Meghan received accolades for her audition and a hefty scholarship to help defray the very expensive tuition. Meghan applied for additional scholarships, grants and student aid. She maintained her grades throughout her high school career and finished with the highest GPA in the class, winning her the valedictorian spot at graduation.
In January of 2015 Mrs. Coates lost her job and was unable to find another job for six months. She has only recently found employment which she will start on August 3rd 2015. The result of this is that she does not qualify as a co-signer for the additional loan moneys that Meghan needs to complete her tuition package. Even with the generous loans, scholarships and grant she has received Meghan requires an additional $20,000. to complete her financial requirements. She had intended to take out additional loans for this money in her own name but Meghan will not be 18 until the end of October. She is not able to sign for loans without a co-signer.
Never one to give up, Meghan has started a fund raising campaign to try and gain the additional tuition. Meghan is a very bright, hard working compassionate young woman who deserves an education. She has over come great adversity throughout her life and maintained her positive, compassionate outlook throughout. Will her dreams of a future finally be crushed for want of a qualified co-signer and/or $20,000? We are reaching out to you, to America, for help. Help us light a candle in this darkening world, help us send this girl to college.