Teen Challenges Conventional Wisdom
“Don’t let the wheelchair fool you,” says 13-year-old Tyrese Alleyne- Davis, a resident of the Linden Projects. Despite being stricken with cerebral palsy, the effervescent teenager recently starred in a mini-documentary about his life. The mini movie was unveiled at the School of Visual Arts Theater as part of the first ever Starlight Children’s Foundation and Make a Film Foundation partnership.
The barely ten-minute film demonstrates life from Tyrese’s perspect ive.
Discussing what it is like to face curious stares, the teenager says he would prefer people just come up to him and talk. The documentary brings the audience into the daily life of the 7th grader who attends
School. “I like all subjects… except Math,” says the honor student.
Aside from the movie, just talking to Tyrese reveals a very intelligent, insightful “old soul” as his mother, Felicia describes her son. But the fact that Tyrese is flourishing academically is beyond miraculous. “He was born premature at 23 weeks,” his mother recalled. She went on to describe how her son weighed just a mere pound, with his head the size of an egg and the rest of his little body fitting into the palm of one’s hand.
“The doctors told me he didn’t have much of a chance; that he’d be blind and be mostly in a vegetative state,” said the proud, misty-eyed mother. Despite that hopeless prognosis, Tyrese’s parents took a more proactive approach. “Around the time he was born, ‘Baby Einsteins’ came out,” said Mrs. Alleyne-Davis. The program advocates the usage of classical music as having profound stimulating effects on the developing minds of babies.
Being ever hopeful, Ty’s parents put a walkman into a sandwich baggie and played classical music in his incubator for the four months he remained hospitalized after being born. “For the first three years of his life, he listened to classical music,” explained the teenager’s mom.
Clearly flourishing, Tyrese is adamant about being positive. While he admits he has his down moments, he says he views his medical condition as a challenge and shares his thoughts through speeches at the Starlight Foundation.
At an early age, Tyrese rationalized he has ‘wheels’ (as he put it). “ (It) is a way to balance out the universe. Not everyone can be the same. Some are short, fat, skinny, tall.” Aside from being a philosophizing, motivational speaker, Ty is an avid participant of the Special Olympics, proudly displaying his numerous gold, silver and bronze medals. When he placed third in an event for the first time, Ty asked his mother what was the brownish thing he received. She explained it was a bronze medal, much to the dismay of the disappointed competitor.
Easily commanding the attention of any room he enters, the youngest member of the Alleyne-Davis family serves as their pillar. The teen’s 26- year-old brother, Tyrell, candidly tells the mini-documentary audience, “I look up to him, even though he is younger than me. He is the captain of our team.”
In one particular revealing moment, his father, Kelvin recalled a testy exchange he had with his wheelchair bound son. The dad said his son told him he wouldn’t understand because he is able-bodied. The poignant moment reveals just how much of an inspiration Tyrese is to his family.
Besides his athletic endeavors and inspirational outlook, the young man eloquently states his future plans. “I want to be a lawyer and go to Harvard,” he said. He touts Franklin D. Roosevelt and current President Barack Obama as his favorites. While his mom points out she does not have the tuition money, Ty — being the ever consummate problem solver — says, “I’ll get a scholarship.”
The young man says he continues to work with the Starlight Foundation and appreciates the attention it gives children with disabilities. Through the foundation and his various engagements, the teenager has been able to announce at Madison Square Garden for the New York Rangers, rubbed elbows with Hollywood types such as Morgan Freeman, been part of an HBO special on presidential history and has spoken at events, leaving the unenviable task of those having to follow him, such as Newark, New Jersey Mayor Corey Booker.
From the red carpet, to delivering keynote speeches with an eye towards the hallowed halls of Harvard, Tyrese Alleyne-Davis is wheeling along just fine.