Sophomore Ricole Wicks moves across campus in her electric wheelchair.

Can you remember what you got for your 12th birthday? For Ricole Wicks, it was a gift she’ll never forget. “In my family, when you turn 12, you get your own boxing gloves. My dad gave me the boxing mindset.”

If you think that means Ricole is a fighter, you’re absolutely right. For disability issues. For her friends. For her dreams, and, day in and day out, for her ability to overcome the challenges she faces as a result of cerebral palsy, a condition she’s had since birth.

People say I’m not by the book, and I never have been.

“The doctor literally told my mom not to get too attached, that I wouldn’t live for more than two days. I was born a toughie. And my parents made me a toughie, too. If the door keeps shutting, go through the window. That’s how I try to live in everything I do.”

More than 20 years later, Ricole is a sophomore media studies major at UNCG with the goal to be the first-ever female, African-American, disabled sports broadcaster for ESPN.

“As far as I know, no one has blazed a trailed for broadcasters in wheelchairs. It would be amazing to be a female, an African-American and also a disabled person who started something for young people to follow and be inspired by.”

A fighter with heart
As she manages a condition that caused her left side to have very limited mobility, Ricole fights with more than sheer determination and a “boxing glove” mentality. She’s also passionate. Faithful. And conscious about others around her who might need a little help along the way, just as she has. She’s been known to slip a 20 dollar bill into the pocket of a friend who needed some grocery money. And she regularly sits on panels and focus groups to advocate for disability issues. “In comparison to other schools, UNCG is awesome about accessibility. The Office of Disability Services helps out  a lot.”

As is the case with any person, and especially someone with a disability, there is more to Ricole than meets the eye. For instance, she’s a poet with a publisher already lined up. “I started writing when I was 13 because I felt no one was listening. It became a therapy for me. And now I am working to publish a first volume of 50 poems.”

She also has a passion for music. In high school, she played the trumpet, even though people told her she wouldn’t be able to.

“I’m the kind of person that if you tell me no, I’m going to find a way for you to say yes. You just have to find the right support network. If you let ‘no’ stop you, then you didn’t want it bad enough. I’m determined to be the person to start something, to give others motivation.”

And that’s what it really means to stand for something.

Photography by Chris English, University Relations