BYU student perseveres despite challenge of cerebral palsy

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When she was 22, Jennifer walked across a parking lot.

Although the act may seem trivial, Jennifer was not trying to reach a physical destination. She was accomplishing a goal. It was the first time she had walked that far without support from others.

Cerebral palsy does not hold back Jennifer Schofield, a 27-year-old BYU student, who perseveres in her daily life as every activity becomes a major achievement.

Dressing takes 20 minutes and cooking is difficult with an often uncontrollable right arm.

“My challenges are on the outside,” Schofield said.

Dependent on a power wheelchair to move around, her appearance can form misconceptions, Schofield said.

“The hardest part about being disabled is how other people react to me,” Schofield said. “I just want to be a normal girl.”

Complications at her birth in Iowa City did not allow enough oxygen to reach her brain, causing cerebral palsy. Learning to live with her disability, physically and emotionally, was extremely difficult, Schofield said.

Initially, she had to rise above physical adversity as doctors believed she would never talk, walk or feed herself.

“I like to overcome the impossible,” Schofield said.

As she learned to become independent, Schofield proved the doctors wrong.

“I wanted to be like everybody else,” Schofield said. “I just wanted to be a kid.”

Schofield said a major turning point in her life occurred when she moved to Utah to attend Snow College.

Her mother, Suzanne Feldmann, said she was concerned for her child, who had been completely dependent, but she encouraged  her daughter to be independent.

“At first I was really concerned because we couldn’t see how she could do it alone,” Feldmann said. “She was so independent … she was going to make it work.”

Schofield’s sister, Heather Bosshardt, lived with her at Snow College and helped her improve walking and speaking skills.

“I made her practice walking outside,” Bosshardt said. “It always scared Jenny to walk outside because she did not want to fall.”

Bosshardt said people who did not know Schofield would always talk loud and slow when speaking with her until they realized she was brilliant.

Her current roommate, Biz Gauthier, said Schofield just wants to be normal and independent.

“It’s tough to talk to her because it’s time consuming and takes awhile,” Gautheier said. “She gets excited when people talk to her.”

Aside from her physical challenges, Schofield is progressing in her education. Currently studying mathematics, Schofield is working to graduate with her doctorate in about a year.

She said she would like to become a math professor, but something much more important is on her mind for the future.

“I wish the boys would get on track because I just want to be a stay-at-home mom,” Schofield said.

She said she has overcome so many other setbacks that this dream now seems obtainable.

“Maybe it is just a dream, but I have already done so much more than I ever thought possible,” Schofield said.

Over the past year, Schofield has worked with a new physical therapy organization called Yes I Can.

“It may not seem like much to you, but I can change a roll of toilet paper,” Schofield said. “I could never do that before.”

She explained she never thought she could walk across a parking lot without falling, but that event and many other independent activities have given her confidence in her ability to conquer the impossible.

 

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