Meet Mackenzie Strong, who is blind and has albinism. She wants to teach because she wants to learn. She is the Vice President of the Student Body and the Vice President of her literary club at Illinois College. She is also a double major in history and secondary education and swims competitively.
Mackenzie’s albinism doesn’t hold her back; instead, it’s become her superpower that helps her get through life.
Albinism is a rare genetic disorder that makes it hard to see because the skin, hair, and/or eyes have less melanin pigment. People who have albinism have bad eyesight that can’t be fixed with glasses.
Strong is legally blind, so she often has to hold her phone very close to her face and zoom in to see things.
Albinism.org says that between 18,000 and 20,000 people in the United States have albinism. She never let the fact that she was strong hold her back from going after what she wanted.
“I started entering beauty pageants when I was six, mostly because I didn’t have any friends. “It’s hard to be different and not fit in with everyone else,” Strong said.
Strong came in second place at her first beauty pageant, which gave her confidence right away.
She now says that pageants taught her most of her skills: “I know how to interview, I’m good at public speaking, and I can think on my feet.” Strong is the current Miss Round Lake Area 2022.
Strong knew at a young age that she wanted to do more than just compete in beauty pageants. She also wanted to teach people about albinism.
Her mother made a photographer who was albino a Facebook friend, so Strong could meet other people who had the same condition. Several of these people have talked about their experiences with albinism on YouTube.
Strong said, “After seeing their movies, I always wanted to do that.” She has about 400,000 followers on TikTok and is getting more and more popular on Instagram.
Strong keeps a positive attitude and tries to teach other people about her condition online instead of letting negative comments get to her.
Strong also had to deal with the stigma of having a disability at school.
“I was on my swim team for four years, but none of the girls ever talked to me.
“The only thing I could think of that made us different was that I was competing in a different category than they were,” Strong said, referring to the fact that she had competed in the impaired group in high school.
“There are different sections for men and women. We normalize these two groups a lot, but not another group that’s there for the same reason.
People with disabilities have the right to compete with their peers, and we must recognize that.
But as a college swimmer, Strong competes against swimmers without disabilities. This shows that she deserves to be where she is. “Able-bodied” refers to people who are healthy and don’t have any illness, injury, or condition that makes it hard for them to do things other people do.
Because of what she has been through, Strong wants to make disability more common. She thinks that education is very important. For example, few able-bodied people know that athletes in the Paralympics compete against others with the same disability to make sure that the games are fair.
“Once we as a society are educated and able to see that people with disabilities have a place in the sporting world, those meets will be safer for us,” she said.
Strong also encourages people who are not disabled to let disabled people enjoy their independence. She remembers how her weightlifting coach told her not to do the sport because of her illness, even though he didn’t know that Strong had been lifting for four years.
“If you want [disabled] people to be included, you should let them speak for themselves instead of deciding if they deserve to be there,” Strong said.
Strong is now working on many things. She started the group VIDA, which stands for “Visible and Invisible Disability Advocates.” Strong chose the theme “Diversity Includes Disability” for her literary society’s play, which raises awareness of impairments, reduces stigma, and encourages accessibility.
As Miss Round Lake Area 2022, Strong plans to read books about children with disabilities to students in her community and make sure that these books are available in local libraries.
Strong has trouble balancing the fact that she wants people to know about her disability while also making sure that her disability is not her whole life.
Strong said, “On campus, people call me the girl with the stick, but I wish they called me Kenzi.” “I wish people remembered me for the things I chose to do rather than the one thing I didn’t do.”
Strong wants to be a teacher after he graduates, even though most people think blind people can’t do this job.
“I shall make arrangements for myself. I won’t let the fact that I can’t see stop me from doing what I want. Strong added, “I know it’s a part of who I am, but it’s not everything I am.”
Strong’s ultimate professional goal is to run the Special Education Department of a large school system.
She didn’t have the help and resources she needed during her first two years of high school, and now she wants to make sure that no other disabled student has to go through the same thing.
“I want to be the person who talks to teachers and helps them get ready to teach a child with a disability. Strong said, “I can tell you from the heart why it’s so important for every teacher to be flexible.”
Strong thinks that society is steadily moving toward making the world more welcoming for people with disabilities, and she plans to be a part of this change in the future.