TUCSON, Ariz. — The Muscular Dystrophy Association has named Jonathan O.L.H. Porter of Seattle, Wash., the recipient of its Robert Ross National Personal Achievement Award for 2013. Porter, 26, was chosen from other nominees for the award based on his personal achievements and his work on behalf of others with disabilities.
About Jonathan Porter
Porter was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) at the age of 3. SMA is a progressive genetic disease affecting the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement. He has been using a wheelchair since the age of 4.
While attending Garfield High School in Seattle, Porter also attended a program facilitated by the Technology Access Foundation and secured three paid summer internships with the Microsoft Corporation. He also spoke on a panel for Seattle Public Schools, and attended National Society of Black Engineers’ conferences in Texas and California. He graduated from Garfield in 2004, each year receiving awards for maintaining a GPA above a 3.0.
He then went on to attend Seattle University, where he was a member of the Black Student Union and a continuing member of the National Society of Black Engineers. He graduated in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and has worked as a budget analyst and small business consultant intern. For two years, Porter worked as a technology instructor for the YMCA of Greater Seattle’s YTech team training at-risk youth in the use of different technologies, including video production, graphic design, digital photography and other related skills. He currently is a technology instructor at a local-area middle school.
During his college years, Porter served others by teaching a Sunday school class for elementary school-aged children at his church, helping to prepare lunches for the homeless and volunteering at a weekly food bank. After his sophomore year, he also spoke on a panel at the Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD) Seventh Annual National Conference in Atlanta, Ga.
Porter attended MDA summer camp from the time he was 5 until he turned 21. He also served three terms as a local Goodwill Ambassador and was the Washington State Goodwill Ambassador in 1998. Porter continues to participate in the local Labor Day show, and many of MDA’s fundraising events such as Fill the Boot, Lock-Ups and the Shamrocks Against Dystrophy campaign. He frequently speaks at MDA young adult group events regarding transitioning to college and living independently.
Recently, Porter was appointed to the Seattle Mayor’s Commission for People with Disabilities, where he advocates for policy changes regarding transportation, housing, employment and public access, and has been featured in several publications. Often saying “life is too short,” he says he follows that motto in three ways: by “not sweating the small stuff”; living each day to the fullest; and ensuring a positive and memorable legacy.
“MDA is honored to name Jonathan Porter as the recipient of the 2013 Robert Ross Personal Achievement Award,” said MDA Interim President and Medical Director Valerie A. Cwik, M.D. “Through his continuing work on behalf of people with disabilities, Jonathan exemplifies the exceptional character and generous spirit that is the hallmark of this award.”
To learn more about Jonathan Porter, see the Quest magazine article Pioneer Spirit Helps Seattle Man Win Top Honor.
About the Personal Achievement Award
Initiated in 1992, the Robert Ross Personal Achievement Award (PAA) recognizes the exemplary accomplishments and community service of people who are affected by one of the more than 40 neuromuscular diseases in MDA’s program.
It is named in honor of Robert Ross, MDA’s longtime chief executive who passed away in June 2006. Ross created the PAA to demonstrate to the public that disability is no obstacle to achievement.
Jonathan Porter succeeds the 2012 national PAA recipient, Scott Crane of Northbrook, Ill. As a result of his love of cooking and eating, Crane helped found a charity called “In Chef’s Hands — Food Therapy for the Soul” (inchefshands.org). Crane, who was affected by centronuclear myopathy, passed away in June 2011 as a result of complications from the disease.
MDA is the nonprofit health agency dedicated to curing and finding treatments for muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases by funding worldwide research. The Association also provides comprehensive health care and support services, advocacy and education.
In addition to funding some 300 research projects worldwide, MDA maintains a national network of 200 medical clinics; facilitates hundreds of support groups for families affected by neuromuscular diseases; and provides local summer camp opportunities for thousands of youngsters living with progressive muscle diseases.