Santa Rosa High School senior Hana Musgrove didn't know when she sat down in her health class Friday morning that a guest lecture on Disability History Week would inspire her to share something about herself.
After listening to Alexa McBride, a Santa Rosa Class of 2008 graduate and senior at Sacramento State University, speak of living life with cerebral palsy, Musgrove raised her hand.
"I have cerebral palsy," the slight senior told the crowded classroom.
She added that although she doesn't use a wheelchair like McBride, she does struggle with physical movement more rigorous than walking. Many of her classmates don't have any idea because Musgrove rarely speaks of it, she said.
"It feels really good to talk about it," she said after class. "It just kind of came over me. She said she has cerebral palsy, so I thought, I want to say 'I do too.'"
McBride, speaking through a translator because her speech is affected by the condition, bestowed kudos on Musgrove.
"Congratulations on walking," she said. "That is amazing. I want to learn to walk."
McBride's visit, coordinated by Terry Swehla, her former teacher at Santa Rosa High, is part of her outreach efforts through Yo! Disabled and Proud, a project of the Sacramento-based California Foundation for Independent Living Centers.
"I want them to realize that everybody is just like you and you might have to be patient with somebody," she said of the talks that she gave to three of Swehla's classes Friday.
McBride, who is studying child development, expects to graduate from Sac State in the spring and intends to earn money as a substitute teacher before enrolling in law school.
"I have to fight for a normal life, every day of my life," she said.
McBride, 23, lives with fiance Nathan Carter in Sacramento, navigating life as both a college student and an advocate for students with disabilities.
She told Swehla's students that having a disability is just one kind of difference among people — just like gender or race. It's not good or bad, it's just part of who you are, she said.
Recalling a conversation she had on a train in which a stranger asked what disability she "suffers from," McBride was quick to point out that she doesn't need pity.
"My disability is a part of me. I don't suffer," she said. "I almost cussed him out."
McBride recalled for students the time her fiance asked her what it was like to not be able to eat or dress without assistance.
"I said, 'This is all I know,'" she told the students. "I'm happy."
(Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @benefield.)