If Alexis Snyder, 16, an LC-M High School junior, had her way, she would erase the “R word” from everybody’s vocabulary.

At 14 years old, Alexis was hospitalized for her cutting addiction which had gone too far. After many years of severe depression, she had given up and lost hope of finding happiness in her life. As she entered high school she was encouraged by her parents to get into something which would make her life more meaningful. They suggested softball, tennis or student council. But, Alexis knew this was not the answer.

“Little did they or even I know that Special Olympics was my true calling, and would put me at my best.,” Alexis said. “Many would say that I’m making a difference in the special needs kids lives but they are undoubtably making a difference in mine. They’ve even saved mine. “

It was her best friend, Millie, who shed some light on the wonderful opportunities ahead of her. Millie’s mother drove the bus which took special needs students to school. Alexis saw the joy it brought to Millie and knew she wanted to experience the same feeling.

Three years later and three years of being “cut free,” she is still volunteering with the special needs students at the high school with a new lease on life. She feels she has found her place in life too.

“I would not be where or who I am without these guys. During the three years I’ve been helping out with the special needs program in my school, I’ve made forever lasting friendships, I’ve had the joy of watching many students graduate and reach new milestones. I have seen the triumph, the joy, the love, the victory, the compassion, and so much more out of these kids eyes,” she said.

Alexis not only helps out with the special needs students at LC-M, but also volunteers with the Southeast Texas Special Olympics. She plans to be a part of the National Committee for the Special Olympics by submitting an essay.

“They showed me unconditional love and compassion to me which I came to discover I deserved all along,” Alexis said.

She is now comfortable admitting she had a problem.

“It took a lot to admit it to myself,” Alexis said.

But, with her proven success, she hopes others will get through their pains and win the battles too.

“Never give up,” she said. “You may find help in the most unexpected places.”

With her gained outlook, Alexis is adamantly against anyone saying the “R” word and feels those who use it should stop for it causes unnecessary pain to those who don’t deserve it.

“Some may look down on the special needs kids since they may not be able to read, add, or divide, but they have twice the capacity to show love,” Alexis said.

All of the students will always hold a  place in her heart, but two students in particular, Clyde Jones and Hayden Wheeler, are always ready to greet her with a smile. Alexis eats lunch daily with the special needs students and helps their teacher, Terrie Parker. On field trips, she partners with Cylde and Hayden.

A touching moment with the special needs students which gave the entire school a different perspective was during a talent show. While music played, the students held up signs with the “ugly” names they had been called, but slowly they turned the signs around where the message changed to spell the word “beautiful.” As Alexis describes this moment, she smiles broadly which lights up her face.

“Everyone matters,” Alexis said.  “Whether they’re in a wheelchair, whether they have an extra chromosome, whether they have a mental illness, whether anything.”

Alexis will continue to work with special needs students, but is not sure if she will work in special education following graduation. The accomplished artist with a love of the culinary arts has her whole life ahead of her. There is no way to determine the path she may choose with all that lays ahead.

“She has accomplished a lot and it seemed to be her true calling, but we can’t overlook all of her strengths,” said Gabby Snyder, her proud mother.

Alexis would like everyone to support the LC-M “amazing team of teachers and students” and on their Facebook page of LCM Team Force.

“Much love to everyone,” Alexis said from her heart.

Pictured above: Alexis Snyder, 16,  a LCM junior, with two of her very dear friends, Clyde Jones and Hayden Smith, who have given her a new outlook on life.