A Charlotte teenager is preparing to accept a huge honor for her work in the community, and the Charlotte Post is recognizing her as one of the top students in our area.
On Friday, she told Eyewitness News that she gives much of the credit for whom she has become to her little sister. It is game time for 14-year-old Lizzy Whitfield.
She is next at bat at the Miracle League game for children with special needs, with big sister, Julia, right by her side.
Even though Julia is older, she said having a younger sibling with Down syndrome has taught her the most about life.
"Just keep going even when you think you can't do it. There is so many things that people with disabilities are not supposed to do that Lizzy can do, and it is only through repetition and perseverance. If she can do it and overcome those things, than I should be able to," said Julia.
And Julia has worked hard and achieved – graduating from Mallard Creek High School with a 4.6 GPA.
Now, a freshman at UNC Chapel Hill, she was just named a runner-up to the top senior award presented by the Charlotte Post Foundation.
Each year the newspaper recognizes excellence in community leadership and education.
Through it all, her mom said because of their family experience, Julia has become an advocate for people with challengers.
"She saw Lizzy being mistreated, that is the hardest piece – stared at and jeered at. That was the toughest for Julia.
She wants the world to accept at the level that she does, and to want to be there and be a friend," Deborah Whitfield.
"I recognize people with disabilities in everyday life when I see them in public. I make sure to say hi and not just give them weird stares or looks or ignore them like some people do," said Julia.
Julia's high school graduation project focused on permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless, disabled and veterans.
She plans to major in psychology because she is interested in how people think, hoping that in the future more people would be more understanding.
"It has made me more loving and open and more accepting of all kinds of people," said Julia.
Julia is set to receive her award and a scholarship Saturday night at the Charlotte Post Best awards banquet.