Getting out into the community and being a productive member of society is essential to living a fulfilling life. This is even more important for people with disabilities like Zully, who was born 24 weeks premature with spina bifida. Thanks to a generous donation from the Gilbert family, the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of United Spinal Association is proud to present Zully with a wheelchair vehicle lift which will enable her to be more independent when traveling to and from school.
Zuleika (Zully) M. Santana Torres, now 27, came to the United States from Puerto Rico when she was 4 years old as part of a program through Shriners Hospital. When Zully was born her spinal cord was stretched, resulting in scoliosis and partial paralysis. “Growing up, I went through many surgeries and spent a lot of time in the hospital,” She even recalls having a kidney transplant in 2010 in which her sister Zuleidee Santana donated one of her kidneys to her.
Despite this, living with a disability certainly has not slowed her down. In 2007, Zully participated in a beauty pageant being the only participant with a disability while graduating from high school that same year. In 2015, she graduated from the Community College of Philadelphia with a degree in General Liberal Arts, and that same year was asked by Charles Horton to be part of the Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities, and is currently Chairperson of the Youth Committee. Currently, she is a student at Drexel University in their Computing and Security Technology program. Zully also loves to dance Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata.
Zully’s dream has always been to help others beginning with her mother and four siblings. She plans to dedicate her efforts to an organization that provides support for persons who experience domestic violence or rape by creating a safe place where they can talk with someone or obtain information as needed. She would also love to be involved with an organization for youth, both in Philadelphia and Puerto Rico, that helps young people with homework, provides extra activities and helps keep young people off the streets.
Zully says that this wheelchair vehicle lift will be a great help and enable her to attend meetings, appointments, and do things in an easier fashion without struggle. She will be more independent than she is now and be able to do the things she loves on her own.