Former MDA National Ambassador Abbey Umali shares big plans post grad

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right”

Abbey Umali, a former MDA National Ambassador, recently shared these powerful words at her high school graduation as she and a friend took to the stage to address their class with a commencement speech.

Abbey, who lives with CMT, has always lived her life according to the former.

During her senior year of high school alone, Abbey was student body president, vice president of advanced vocal ensemble, and thespian fundraising chair, and she was actively involved in her church, singing and playing keyboard for the worship band.

Abbey credits her experience with MDA for preparing her for all of these responsibilities.

Abbey Umali“Serving as MDA’ s National Ambassador definitely prepared me for public speaking and the leadership and organizational roles I took on in high school,” says Abbey.

Her time at MDA Summer Camp also helped prep her for life beyond high school.

“I went to MDA Summer Camp for seven years and had a blast. It was my first time being on my own for an extended period of time and I was able to take on more responsibility and gain independence. It was a great practice run for college,” says Abbey.

And speaking of college, Abbey has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. She’ll be attending Chapman University in the fall where she plans on joining an a cappella group, participating in student government and finding a church to become actively involved in. She plans on majoring in psychology with possible minors in music, business administration and disability studies.

While she isn’t sure exactly which route she wants to take with her psychology major she is confident in one thing: she wants to help others.

“I’ve thought about becoming a marriage and family counselor or going into social work. My time with MDA has also helped me become comfortable talking with others, especially if they’ve received a challenging diagnosis. I’m passionate about advocating for individuals with disabilities and helping them gain the things they need to be successful.”

Abbey UmaliOn that same note, Abbey also encourages families of individuals living with disabilities to take advantage of the resources available to them.

“Families have so many opportunities available – there are so many people and organizations like MDA willing to help and support the neuromuscular disease community,” Abbey shares.

When it comes to living unlimited one thing is for certain. Abbey refuses to let anyone define her based on her disability

“I live unlimited by not conforming to limits or anything society puts on individuals who live with disabilities. I know there will be obstacles during my transition to college but I will not let them stop me from achieving my goals,” says Abbey.

Help kids and adults like Abbey continue to #LiveUnlimited

Check out the rest of Abbey’s commencement speech:

The class of 2017 is pretty special because we are the last class that was born in the 90’s and the last generation of the millennials. Some of the movies and songs that came out in 1998 and 1999 (when we were all born) are pretty relatable right now. Through middle school and high school it felt like the MATRIX, just really…really… really… slow. And according to Blink 182, all the small things do matter… even school… Finally, Toy Story 2 shows us how important friendship is and what it looks like to make sacrifices for the people we care about.

Abbey UmaliPeople say that millennials are lazy, too attached to our electronic devices, and entitled. While it might be easy for us to fall into those stereotypes, we are capable of so much more. As we go off to work or school or whatever we choose to do, we have the opportunity to represent our generation and show people that we’re better than the low expectations society has for us.Henry Ford once said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right”. This quote is so pertinent to us as a class because it shows how much power we have available to us. If we have the attitude that we’ll never reach our goals, that we can’t make it another day, that we’re too afraid of failing so we won’t try at all, then those are the things that will determine our future. But if we choose to believe in ourselves, to keep pushing forward, and to remember that it’s okay to fall, as long we get back up again, then nothing can stop us. We don’t have to be the lazy and entitled generation, we can be the generation that cures diseases, makes sure that people never have to go hungry, and creates a world where we can focus on the things that bring us together rather than the things that tear us apart.

Some of the things that bring us together are the experiences that have made us who we are, the friendships we’ve formed, and all the memories we’ve created.

These “small things” are anything but, because they are the things that have carried us through the most difficult times – times in which we were challenged – times when friendships were put to the test – times such as the deeply felt loss of a friend or family member…

When we lose someone close to us, and because the relationship was so strong ,we can take all the memories we’ve made and everything we’ve learned from those we lost and carry them with us for the rest of our life. We learn how to be less critical, how to laugh more, and how to love with all our heart. And I want to challenge all of you to do these same things because they will change our lives for the better.

Friendship is so important and is something that should never be taken for granted. Even in Toy Story 2 when Woody thought he’d be better off without his friends, he soon discovered that the friendships he made were more important than anything and worth making sacrifices for. Remember that even when it feels like life is the matrix, we can count on our friendships to push us through difficult times.

After today we will all be going our separate ways in life. As you go off to do whatever you decide to do this next year and the rest of your life, remember that each one of you has your own unique skills and talents that can get you so far. You can do anything you set your mind to. All you have to do is believe it. Because remember, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”