This Mann is inspiration to all who cross his path

By Ronald MacArthur

During the holiday period, we all stop and take time to count our blessings. Emmanuel Jenkins (better know as Mann) has a lot of reasons not to be thankful. The Seaford High School senior is confined to a wheelchair and has to rely on someone to help him with most of the daily routines we all take for granted. But it doesn’t take long when conversing with Mann to realize that he is thankful for many things. His contagious smile and spontaneous laughter brighten up a room. Mann has never dribbled a basketball down the court or run the bases in Little League. Getting him up and out of his home in Greenwood each day is a major undertaking. He has never traveled much more than 100 miles from his home. His link to the outside world is the state bus system. His has been raised by his mom, Melissa Horsey, with very little contact with his father throughout his life. But Mann never dwells on what he can’t do, he focuses on the blessings that he does have. “I feel honored and it’s a pleasure to be alive,” he said. “I’ve been thrown a curve ball so I have to catch it and throw it back. I’m lucky because today I have a chance to bloom because of the programs people with disabilities can do.” Mann, who is 19, was born with cerebral palsy and has never been able to walk. Because of the disease his muscles are weak and he struggles to use his hands and arms. He has undergone 12 operations and spent countless hours in the hospital over the years. Two years ago he had a total hip replacement. “I’ve been dealt a hand that I have to play to my advantage,” he said. “I’ve had to find ways to overcome my disability. I don’t have time to concentrate on things I can’t do, but look at what I can do,” he said. And Mann has already set his sights high after graduation. Because he loves to work with children (more on that later) he plans to attend either the University of Delaware or Delaware Tech College and major in communications and therapy. He wants to have his own radio show to offer children on air help with their problems. He has already received some scholarship money and is applying for more.

MANN HAS GONE TO Seaford schools since he was two years old except for a year he lived in Wilmington. Up until the sixth grade he was a student at the Orthopedic Handicapped School. In the sixth grade he took some non-academic classes with non-handicapped students for the first time. Then in the eighth grade, he took academic classes in the middle school. “Teachers realized that I’m disabled but there is nothing wrong with my brain,” he said. “We need to interact with other kids. We all want to be treated like other kids. You feel more like a person when you can be around people without disabilities,” he added. He was behind in his classroom work, but he has worked hard to catch up. As a high school student he has a one-on-one teacher, Darlene Cannon, who helps him with his classroom work. He attends classes with other high school students. Since he cannot hold a large book and has trouble writing, he has a lap top computer with programs that allow him to scan his textbooks and also speak into the computer and get a print-out of what he says. “In middle school I had to depend on somebody to read and write for me, but technology has been great for me,” he said. And Mann is a quick learner when it comes to technology. In fact, one of his volunteer jobs at the Western Boys & Girls Club was to work in the computer lab to help members with homework and train them on computer use.
BESIDES THE SCHOOL, a major influence in Mann’s life has been the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club. Mann has practically grown up at the club because he joined when he was 11 years old and attended the old club on Arch Street. The friends he has made and the help from staff members have been important to him. He has gone from being an active member and volunteer to a part-time staff member working with children at the Woodbridge site in Greenwood. One of the highlights of his life occurred last year when he was named Youth of the Year from the Western Sussex Club. “I’ve been able to get more involved with the community and was able to find my passion at the club - being around and working with kids,” he said. “It’s been important to me because I had a place to go everyday and not just go home and look out the window.” Mann was active in the club’s Jr. Staff Volunteer program and was one of the top members in the annual hours competition each year. He has a kinship with younger children who are fascinated at first with his motorized wheelchair. They soon find out that he has a deep concern for them. At the Boys & Girls Club he formed a SMART Boys Club on his own because he felt boys were left out of a similar program for young girls only. “I’ve been able to meet a lot of different people at the club and a lot of them have been very helpful to me,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of new experiences. The club is really not just a building but a foundation for youth. You really do get a sense of belonging that you are someone and you can become someone,” he added. The new director at the Boys & Girls Club, Peggy Geisler, is one of those who Mann has touched over the years. “Mann really brings home how much influence an organization like this has on youth,” she said. “He exemplifies what our youth development strategy is all about.” She said that she realizes that Mann has some big decisions to make that will probably take him away from the club following graduation. “It’s sad to think he won’t be around here every day, but it’s great that he has developed enough self-assurance that he can feel confident enough to go out and look for other avenues beyond the club,” she said. To Mann little happenings and events that most would take for granted have special meaning. Staff members at the Boys & Girls Club have taken him swimming in the pool, taken trips to places like Camden Yards to a ball game, and included him in staff parties and events.

TWO SIGNIFICANT EVENTS have occurred in Mann’s life that have been lifestyle altering. The first one took place in 1998 when he received his first motorized-electronic wheelchair. (He recently got a new $30,000 high-tech chair.) The second took place in 2002 when he (through the help of staff from the Boys & Girls Club) discovered the transportation services offered by the DART Paratransit bus system. “The bus system opened up a whole new world to me,” Mann said. “I can go to the store and to basketball games and do what a young adult does.” The bus system runs Monday-Saturday starting at 6 a.m. and will pick up people in wheelchairs at their homes and take them basically anywhere in Delaware they want to go and pick them up anytime up to 9 p.m. Mann also points out that the motorized chair he rides in has a downside. “It really can’t be broken down to fit in my mom’s car, so in order for me to get around, I have to be in van or bus.” he said. His only concern with the bus system is that it does not operate on Sunday and he can’t get to church. Many people have had an impact on Mann’s life, but he has a special relationship with one who has been by his side through good and bad times - his mother. “She has been my mom, dad, boss, and friend all at the same time. I couldn’t have made it without her,” he said. Obstacles and challenges are an every day occurrence to Mann Jenkins. His disability has not stopped him from moving forward and having a full productive life. He is not only an inspiration for other people with disabilities, but to everyone who has an ounce of caring and compassion in their heart. He has left a mark on everyone who knows him.

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