Jahmir Wallace: What we can learn from 10-year-old, born without arms, who plays trumpet with his feet
Some might think it’s amazing that 10-year-old Jahmir Wallace can already play two musical instruments at his age. What is even more exceptional is that the Green Street Elementary School student has accomplished these feats despite being born with no arms.
The young man, who also plays the guitar, decided to take on the trumpet just four months ago. He is already playing in his Phillipsburg, NJ school band.
Through his uncle Ryan Wallace, Jahmir told theGrio he is happy that his story is so inspirational to others, and is grateful and humbled by the attention. Jahmir was too busy doing his schoolwork to chat with theGrio on the phone during business hours, but wants people to know that he is happy that his experiences can help others muster the strength to undertake difficult tasks, no matter what their challenges may be.
A boy supported by teachers to grow
Jahmir Wallace was encouraged to learn the trumpet by his music teacher Desiree Kratzer. School administrators also worked with a local music store to create a stand empowering the youth to play the trumpet with his toes. That was all he needed.
“I kind of felt excited,” Wallace told WFMZ-TV. “I kind of felt like, oh man this is kind of comfortable, and it kind of felt like this might be the one for me.”
The young man shared words of encouragement for anyone who may be thinking about exploring an instrument.
“Anybody out there that would like to try an instrument, go ahead and try it,” Wallace said. “You never know, if you like it, you like it, if you don’t, you don’t. Keep on trying.”
What we can learn from Jahmir’s example
Jahmir Wallace’s story is a wonderful example of what can happen when families, school leadership, and teachers are able to work together harmoniously to encourage a student’s innate personality.
“Children are strongly influenced by the multiple environments in which they are placed: in the home, at school, in peer relationships,” Asha Tarry, licensed mental health specialist, told theGrio. “Therefore, it’s critical to support and nurture the emotional and social development of children in a variety of ways.”
Tarry praised the ways his parents and teachers encouraged Wallace to reach for new goals, and helped him expand his capabilities in a way that will likely build self esteem.
“In this story, this young man was born with a physical disability that left him impaired,” the owner of Behavioral Health Consulting Services, LMSW, PLLC, elaborated. “However, his parents obviously have not allowed the impairment to narrow the focus of how he views himself in the world. The role of the adults is to foster realistic and reasonable pathways to allowing children to flourish, which this young man is doing. The way children feel about themselves begins with the way adults treat them, foremost.”
A school’s success is a model for all
By encouraging Wallace to be as independent as possible, while assisting him where needed, Green Street Elementary School properly matched Wallace’s level of growth by refusing to simplify, or eliminate, an activity that might have seemed impossible to him.
“The role of the school is to expand and compliment the parents’ earlier training of him as being an able-bodied person,” Tarry said. “Building self-esteem is continuous, and is important, in the ongoing development of the mind for all kids throughout childhood.”
At a time when public schools are often in the news for failing students — particularly young black men, who often face an achievement gap that begins early in their education — it is refreshing to see evidence of a place where all students are encouraged to thrive.
Jahmir Wallace’s confident exploration of his interests in such an environment will hopefully encourage more schools, parent and individuals to overcome their apparent limitations.
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter @lexisb