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College student overcomes childhood disabilities to encourage others

Amber Rizzi was born extremely premature, weighing in at just two pounds.

A day after she was born, she developed a severe pulmonary hemorrhage along with a massive brain hemorrhage.

“My chance of survival was almost nonexistent and I was given last rites,” said Rizzi, now a junior at Georgian Court University (GCU). “Fortunately, and quite miraculously, the course of events inexplicably turned around, and two months later, I was homeward bound to begin my life with my wonderful family.”

The Old Bridge resident later developed cerebral palsy, and since then has been on a mission to let the world to know that people with disabilities are just like everyone else.

“I wanted to change the perception that people have of people with disabilities, letting them know that those with disabilities can do things that everyone else can do, sometimes just needing a little help,” she said.

At 15, Amber created the Children’s Voice Foundation (CVF), which has raised thousands of dollars to help children with disabilities. She has been active with the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities, which serves children and adults with intellectual, developmental and related disabilities through its school, day programs and residential services. She was especially helpful in supporting the aquatics center at the organization’s Lakeview School in Edison, which has a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy center for children with disabilities.

Rizzi had planned to become a special education teacher, but she changed her major at GCU to English with a minor in creative writing and would like to eventually teach at the university level.

She is part of GCU’s The Learning Connection (TLC), a support program for students with learning disabilities or other conditions that affect academic performance.

“Georgian Court has the atmosphere that best suits my needs, entirely supportive. When you have concerns or questions, you know who to go to, what to say; and you’re not afraid to say it. The people here want me to succeed,” she said.


This article was submitted by Sanford Josephson from the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of GCU Magazine. The story was adapted by Kristen Fischer. 

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