BOSTON (CBS) – As she set out into the working world after college, Sandy Ho experienced an anxiety most young adults deal with.

She just wanted to talk to someone who would understand the challenges ahead of her. Unfortunately for Sandy, she was dealing with many more obstacles than the average 22-year-old.

“I, as a young woman with a disability, remember being in that position of not having many role models to look up to,” Ho told WBZ-TV.

Sandy Ho. (WBZ-TV)

Sandy Ho. (WBZ-TV)

Sandy Ho has been living with a disability her whole life. She’s wheelchair bound and at first struggled to navigate the working world on her own. Determined to make sure no other young woman ever felt this way, she started a program called Thrive. Thrive connects disabled young women with mentors in the working world who have had to overcome similar obstacles.

Olivia Ames just finished the Thrive program and said it changed her whole outlook on life. Olivia has Sjögren-Larsson syndrome, which makes it difficult for her to get around. She uses canes to help her walk. Her dad says its held her back in ways it shouldn’t have.

“She went for an interview a few weeks ago, I will not name the place, and the woman said ‘sure come in.’  The woman saw her with canes and said essentially no,” Jamie Ames said.

Before Thrive, Olivia used to feel isolated and she was terrified of public speaking.

Susie Steimle talks to Sandy Ho (center) and Olivia Ames (right). (WBZ-TV)

Susie Steimle talks to Sandy Ho (center) and Olivia Ames (right). (WBZ-TV)

“She’s always been the only one and to be the only one is a difficult thing,” Jamie Ames said.

Now she wants to work as a public speaker and disability advocate for young women like her.

“I’ve learned to just be yourself and don’t be afraid what other people think of you,” Olivia Ames said.

Sandy’s Thrive program helped connect dozens of women around Massachusetts, and hundreds internationally after she posted a letter online.

On Thrive’s website Sandy wrote a letter to her younger self.

“The truth is that you don’t have it all figured out and I know that scares you to admit,” it read.

This letter spread like wildfire.  Disabled women around the world started writing and sharing letters to themselves.

“We’re out there so don’t feel isolated or alone,” Ho said.

She was recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change.” She just wanted women of the future to understand what took her years to learn, that you should never let your disability define you.


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