Rising Northwest Whitfield High School senior Vada Cage is many things to her school, her peers and to the younger students she will mentor through the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership.
One thing Cage is not is defined by her disability, according to Lindsey Coker, director of community initiatives and special needs services with the Healthcare Partnership.
"She just brings a positive attitude to everything she does," Coker said. "While she does have differing abilities, she uses it to her advantage and knows what she has to offer. She always has the sunny-side disposition. We all take a lesson from her in finding the brighter side of things. Every day, she is an inspiration."
Cage has been involved in the Healthcare Partnership special needs program for a number of years, and in June she went through the summer program that is a partnership with Cross Plains Community Partner and the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department. The summer program is geared toward 16- to 20-year-olds with mild to moderate disabilities. In the program, participants work on general life skills, independence, being responsible, résumé writing and financial responsibility.
Coker said Cage's success in the program over the years provides an example for others in the special needs community, and Coker plans on using her to help teach classes and be a mentor to younger participants in the overall program.
"I tell her she could be my personal assistant all the time," Coker said. "She went through the camp and now she will be helping out teaching some of the lessons. I plan to use her in the future with our younger participants. She is just a wonderful role model to show these kids that they don't have to be limited in their dreams. She does a great job of interacting and is never in a bad mood."
At Northwest, Cage is a manager for the girls basketball team and helps out with the swimming program. Coker said Cage enjoys arts and crafts and horseback riding. She also participates in Special Olympics.
"A lot of times when you are working with a population with differing abilities, we work on just teaching them responsibility ... she has really shown a lot of growth and can provide such a good example for the younger people in our program," Coker said. "We strive to have high expectations, and she is not just a good model for the kids, but for the parents. If you have high expectations, she can show parents that they don't have to do everything for their kids."
For her efforts in school and within the special needs community, and for the example she sets for others, the Daily Citizen-News names Vada Cage Citizen of the Week.