Kobey Chew, 18, of Kirkland, Washington, a senior at Juanita High School, produced two videos and a slideshow for a free online medical library to help people — especially those in developing countries — understand that people with disabilities are often much more capable than is frequently assumed. He also serves his community in several official leadership capacities, and participates in numerous other volunteer activities. Kobey is determined to demonstrate that people like him are not that different from people without physical differences. “In developing nations, people with noticeable birth defects are often treated as outcasts, as though their physical differences are contagious,” he said. “Even here, in the greater Seattle area, I have experienced bias and ignorant insults related to my appearance.”
To help people in developing countries better understand people with disabilities, Kobey creates materials for the website of Global HELP, a nonprofit organization that provides medical information to people around the world. “For a paradigm shift to occur,” he said, “people like me need to share our life experiences and show what we are capable of achieving.” Kobey also serves on his town’s youth council and park board, adjudicates cases as a member of a teen traffic court, speaks at community events and volunteers at a senior center. In addition, he has helped clean up parks, collected food for the hungry, volunteered at job fairs, and raised awareness of teen suicide and the opioid epidemic. “I volunteer because I feel my best when I am helping others,” said Kobey.