Fourteen year old Valerie Perkins enjoys making new friends with a lot of different people. She is actively involved in her school as a peer tutor, on the cheerleading squad, playing baseball, softball, basketball, and working with the student government at Woodburn Junior High.
Valerie is independent and very mature for her age. Realizing “the coolest people I know are people who make up their own minds–not the ones who go along just because everyone else is doing it,” Valerie has chosen not to use alcohol and other drugs just to be part of the crowd.
Valerie lives at home with her older sister and brother, Angela and Norman, her younger sister, Erica, and her mother and father, Cynthia and Nathaniel. The two eldest Perkins boys have moved out of the family home. Franklin is in his junior year at the University of Washington and Elias is in the Air Force. Valerie’s family is very close. They enjoy different family traditions like “book night,” and they often participate in activities which celebrate their African-American heritage.
Valerie was born with spina bifida, and she doesn’t mind talking with people about her birth difference. Spina bifida is an opening in one or more of the vertebrae of the spinal column. Not long after her birth, Valerie underwent surgery to close the opening. Because of the spina bifida, Valerie has minimal feeling in her hips and upper legs and no feeling in her lower legs.
As a young child, Valerie spent a lot of time with a physical therapist. Her physical therapist, Roger, also helped Valerie learn to walk using braces and a walker, and then, when she was older, to use her braces and crutches. Valerie can do all of the things other kids her age do, but she enjoys cheerleading and shopping the most! As Valerie often says, “Spina bifida is just one small part of who I am. I’m not going to let it keep me from trying anything I want to try!”