Youth with Tourette’s starts scholarship to help others rising above challenges

NEW YORK (WCBS-TV) – A teenager with Tourette’s syndrome has started his own student scholarship to reward other kids facing similar challenges.

Giovanni Kubanick, who has the disorder, will be a junior in high school this year. He says Tourette’s is often misunderstood, reports WCBS-TV’s Cindy Hsu.

“They think that we’re some weird, different type of person, because people fear what they don’t know, and that’s understandable,” said Kubanick.

Giovanni was diagnosed with the neurodevelopmental disorder at six years old, but with the help of teachers at his elementary school he became an honor roll student and is now traveling the country as a Tourette’s Syndrome Youth Ambassador.

He is working to educate people and dispel myths that Tourette’s is just someone constantly cursing involuntarily. It actually presents as vocal and motor tics that can cause anxiety and lack of focus.

“When people have Tourette’s, usually it comes out as either a twitch or a sound,” he said. “Usually, for most people, it starts out as a cough.”

“One might have a vocal tic where they hum or they shout out words,” said Giovanni’s mother Valerie Kubanick.

Other motor tics could include bending over, someone’s arms flying out or maybe just their eyes blinking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 100 children across the United States is diagnosed with Tourette’s or a tic disorder every year.

When Giovanni graduated from Holy Family Catholic Elementary, he decided to start a student scholarship that would be awarded to an eighth grader at the school who overcame special challenges to succeed.

“You may have worked harder than other kids do to reach this point, and now you’re getting rewarded for that hard work, you’re getting rewarded from someone who did the same thing,” Kubanick said.

He’s now presented the Achievement through Perseverance Award for two years. It comes with $250 he earns as a DJ and a medal.

Principal Maryalice Doherty told me about the first recipient of the award.

“He wore that medal every day, everywhere,” she said. “He was so proud and it was life-changing.”

Kubanick says he plans on going into international relations and spreading awareness about Tourette’s worldwide.