While Adam Zerbst’s senior year at James Island Charter High School is winding down, his work with entrepreneurship organization YEScarolina is not.
Adam was selected from students all over the world by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) for the 2013 Daniel Treanor Award. Daniel was a young entrepreneur who died of cancer. The award recognizes students who have overcome medical or physical challenges to accomplish their dreams.
“I had no idea how many people were entering. I thought my chances were slim to none,” Adam said.
According to NFTE’s 2011 annual report the organization has reached 400,000 students worldwide and trained 5,000 teachers in 50 countries.
Adam said his cerebral palsy isn’t something he often talks about. In his application essay he told the story of being born with “Spastic Diplegia, a mild form of Cerebral Palsy that occurs when a shortage of oxygen damages the areas of the brain associated with movement.”
“It’s hard for me to talk about it,” Adam said.
He has had two major corrective surgeries, one when he was in kindergarten and the other in middle school. He continues to have regular appointments with an orthopedic doctor.
“It’s challenging mentally and physically. Physically because of not being as capable as people my age. That makes you mentally distressed. I still have a hard time with it. I don’t know if I’m as motivated as I need to be,” Adam said.
Adam started his business, Adam’s All Natural, while in an entrepreneurship class. He now sells his healthy Cajun Crunch Trail Mix all over the Lowcountry.
“I know how important a healthy body filled with healthy food is no matter how athletic someone has the opportunity to be,” he wrote in the essay.
YEScarolina surprised Adam in November at their “Under the Tuscan Stars” fundraiser gala by giving him a college scholarship.
“This has been one of the best experiences of my life. It’s changed his life. ... I hope this becomes a lifelong relationship. He has really inspired me,” said Adam’s mentor and YEScarolina board member Justin VanBogart at the gala.
Adam said VanBogart, YEScarolina founder and president Jimmy Bailey, YEScarolina staff member Michelle Pyle Mills and his teacher Anne London have “been the most phenomenal resources.” He said starting a business has made him a better public speaker, which is something he struggled with before.
“Overcoming obstacles is not a new concept in my life; it’s something I will deal with indefinitely and welcome,” he wrote in his essay.
Adam will travel to New York City in April for NFTE’s “Dare to Dream Gala.” He will be accompanied by London, a 2013 Enterprising Educator of the Year, and Wando student Erin Willis, aka the eBay Queen, a 2013 Global Young Entrepreneur award winner.
And if you see Adam this week, tell him happy birthday. He turns 18 on Thursday.