‘I’m so much more than just a chair’ High School para-athlete finds strength in track and field

The Fort Bend County High School student wants to increase visibility for people with disabilities

HOUSTON – Sports can have positive lifelong effects on a young person's life that go far beyond health or fitness.

That’s the case for Skylar Herrera, a soon-to be sophomore who’s part of the track and field team at George Ranch High School in Richmond.

The 15-year-old has found confidence, a new outlook on life and platform to advocate for people with different abilities.

“Being in track is really fun. It’s a lot of work, though. When I’m on the track it’s really freeing to be going that fast. It’s kind of an adrenaline rush and is really exciting just to feel that,” said Herrera, who successfully manages training and school responsibilities, but according to her that’s not her biggest accomplishment.

“My biggest accomplishment in life is probably recovering,” recounts Herrera, who has overcome a long to road to get to where she’s at.

Courtesy: (Amanda Herrera)

“I was six years old when I was involved in a motor vehicle accident that left me with a spinal cord injury. The extent of my injury goes all the way to the top of my neck, so I do have very little mobility. I only have my hands and basically from the chest down I am paralyzed,” explained Herrera, who admitted the experience has not been easy.

“It did close a lot of doors for me, but I think it opened a lot more, too. For a while, I was mad at the world and I didn’t like the stares because, of course, nobody likes to be stared at, but I figured I could use my platform and my disability to do some good. And it’s much easier to have a positive attitude and outlook on life than it is to be negative about everything,” said Herrera, who adjudicates competing in adaptive sports for transforming her mindset.

Courtesy: (Amanda Herrera)

“Track has changed my mood completely, actually. Before I was kind of a little bit shy. But really having my teammates around me, helping me through everything and just building those relationships, has made me a little bit more confident to talk to people, and now I have a lot more friends, as well. So, that’s nice,” said the teen, who appreciates all the love and support she has received from her community and family.”

Even though she’s still young, Herrera has set clear goals for her life.

“The Junior Paralympics is what I’m working towards now, but hopefully in the end of all of this I will playing at the Paralympics,” said Herrera, who wants to increase visibility for people with different abilities.

Skylar Herrera and her coach
Skylar Herrera and her coach (Amanda Herrera)

“ I want to be an advocate for people like me, that feel that other people just see the chair and not anything beyond that, and that’s really what I want to focus on because I’m so much more than just a chair,” she said.

To see Herrera’s complete interview, watch the video above.

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