Pioneer Spirit Helps Seattle Man Win Top Honor

'If I have a voice, I’m going to use it' says Jonathan Porter, MDA’s Personal Achievement Award recipient for 2013

Jonathan Porter, MDA's Personal Achievement Award Recipient for 2013. Photo by M. Colleen McDevitt.
Article Highlights:
  • Jonathan Porter, of Seattle, Wash., has been named the recipient of the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Robert Ross National Personal Achievement Award for 2013.
  • The power of positive thinking, coupled with his personal achievements and generous work on behalf of others with disabilities, contributed to Porter receiving the award.
  • Initiated in 1992, the Robert Ross Personal Achievement Award recognizes the exemplary accomplishments and community service of people affected by any of the more than 40 neuromuscular diseases in MDA’s program.
by Richard Senti on October 1, 2012 - 9:05am

QUEST Vol. 19, No. 4

Jonathan Porter has a problem with the word limitation.

“Sure, people with muscular dystrophy have limitations,” he says, “but hey, everyone has limitations — whether you’re in a wheelchair or you’re too short or too skinny — we all have limitations. I say, don’t look at what you have as a limitation, look at it as who you are and get on with your life.”

It doesn’t take long to realize this enthusiastic young man has a very positive view of life. “I can’t walk, but I’m very, very outgoing,” he chuckles.

This power of positive thinking, coupled with his personal achievements and unselfish work on behalf of others with disabilities contributed to Porter, of Seattle, being named the recipient of the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Robert Ross National Personal Achievement Award for 2013.

Teacher and advocate

Jonathan Porter (photo by M. Colleen McDevitt)

Porter, 26, was given a diagnosis of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) at the age of 3, and has been using a wheelchair since age 4.

Since graduating from Seattle University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, he has worked as a budget analyst as well as a small business consultant intern.

For the past two years, Porter worked as a technology instructor for the YMCA of Greater Seattle’s YTech team, training at-risk youth and older GED students in the use of different digital technologies, including photography, graphic design, videography and video production.

Once the students learn their new skills, they’re encouraged to create art, blogs and videos to post on a Y-sponsored website. Called Puget Soundoff, the site is a forum for youth to share their artistic visions and express their opinions.

Recently, Porter was appointed to the Seattle Mayor’s Commission for People with Disabilities, where he advocates for policy changes regarding transportation, housing, employment and public access. He finds the work very satisfying.

As an example of what the commission does, Porter cites the planned renovation of Seattle’s waterfront area “to make it a social hub like it used to be. We’re in constant contact with the restoration planning group, strongly encouraging them to include accessibility in their designs, to make sure people in wheelchairs, people who are blind or deaf, will be able to use all facilities. From the ground up, they need to build in accessibility.”

A pioneer spirit

Porter’s relationship with MDA stretches back to his early youth. He attended MDA summer camp from the time he was 5 until he turned 21. He served three terms as a local MDA Goodwill Ambassador and was the Washington State Goodwill Ambassador in 1998.

He continues to participate in many of MDA’s fundraising events such as Fill the Boot, Lock-Up and the Shamrocks campaign. He also frequently speaks at MDA young adult group events regarding transitioning to college and living independently.

Jonathan Porter has a certain pioneer spirit about him. He’s never shied away from taking the lead, from putting himself out there as point man for others with similar issues to follow. He wants to ensure a positive and memorable legacy.

“When people see me, I want them to think, ‘Because he spoke out, people are more aware.’” Porter says, adding, “If I have a voice, I’m going to use it. If I have the energy, I’m going to use it.”

Initiated in 1992, the Robert Ross Personal Achievement Award recognizes the exemplary accomplishments and community service of people affected by one of the more than 40 neuromuscular diseases in MDA’s program.

MDA’s late chief executive, Robert Ross, created the award to demonstrate to the public that disability is no obstacle to achievement. The 2012 PAA recipient is the late Scott Crane, 23, an amateur chef and humanitarian from Northbrook, Ill. Sadly, Crane, who was affected by myotubular myopathy, passed away the same day his family received notice of the award.

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