The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is proud to announce its nominee for the 2019-20 National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Heart of the Arts Award is Sandburg High School Carter Schott (right).
The NFHS selected Schott as its Section 4 winner of the award, making him the sixth individual from Illinois to be named a section winner. Carter was slated to be honored at the IHSA Boys Basketball State Finals in March, but the event was canceled due to COVID-19. He will now be recognized on Friday, October 16 as a part of Sandburg's band performance and senior night.
“Carter epitomizes why the IHSA believes so strongly in providing activities, in addition to sports,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “We want to be able to provide participation opportunities for students at our high schools of all interests. It is inspiring to see Carter overcome and take full advantage of those offerings.”
Carter was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (a form of Muscular Dystrophy) which prevents his body from producing a protein that allows his muscles to communicate. From an early age, he was required to use a wheelchair for mobility and has had countless hours of physical and occupational therapy. He also found one of his great passions at an early age, one that continues for him today as a member of Sandburg’s Marching Band, Pep Band, and Jazz Band.
“Music has been a part of my life since I was two years old,” said Carter. “Band is an activity where my physical limitations do not hold me back. For me, I think of it as my sport, and a place where I’ve found my friend group.”
Spinal Muscular Atrophy required Carter to go through an extensive full spinal fusion at the age of 10 years old, and he continues to battle his atrophying muscles by participating in a treatment program. This quarterly treatment involves a surgical procedure requiring a spinal injection under full sedation.
Despite these physical challenges, and being confined to a wheelchair, Carter has never let that stop him from following his passions. In addition to his musical overlays, last spring he was a member of the school’s Robotics team that, and later that spring, Carter and the Eagles Bass Fishing team finished second in the Unified Division at the IHSA Bass Fishing State Finals. He also added a new musical endeavor to his resume by participating in the school’s spring musical.
“Being involved is I feel what high school is all about, said Carter. “It gives me a chance to apply what I am learning in school to real life situations. For example, Physics and Math apply to Robotics; Biology and Animal Behavior apply to the Bass Fishing team.”
Carter is still breaking new ground in his pursuits, as he was able to march on the field with the school’s competitive marching band for the first time this past fall. To do so, he had both hands on his instrument, while simultaneously using his forearm to control the movement of his chair, all while remaining in step and rhythm with his fellow bandmates.
“I was raised as ‘differently abled’ and not ‘disabled’, said Carter. “ I would tell people not to look at their limitations as a stop sign, but rather a speed bump. I would also tell them to get out there and try everything, and live life with no regrets.”
In addition to his participation in these groups, Carter is a high achieving student and member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, and has completed over 350 hours of community service. On days when he is not active at Sandburg, you can often find him volunteering at an assisted living home close to his house where he even helps lead group exercise.
“He is truly one of the most joyful students I have ever met,” said Sandburg High School Activities Director Greg Gardner. “He always brings a ‘can do’ attitude to what he is doing. He exemplifies our school motto of being ‘Elite Daily’ by continuously striving to do things that others might not think he is capable of and pushing himself past his physical limitations.”
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) developed the Heart of the Arts Award in 2013 as a way to recognize individuals who exemplify the positive ideals of performing arts that are the core mission of education-based participation in arts & activities. Students, coaches, administrators and other individuals associated with a school’s performing arts programs are all eligible for the honor, which generally recognizes individuals who have overcome adversity or gone above and beyond their peers. The IHSA receives one nominee to represent the state of Illinois each school year. Section 4 includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“I am humbled to have even been considered for this award,” said Carter. “Receiving it shows that social barriers are being broken down. Awards like this show that people with disabilities are not defined by their limitations but are allowed to succeed in the world around them.”