Luticha Doucette: Adventurous Spirit Seeks to Change the World
“SportsNet helped make me a well-rounded person…. I want to shout, ‘Look out world, here I come!’”– Luticha Doucette
Ambitious, articulate, and accomplished are all words to describe Luticha Doucette, 28, who aspires to win the Nobel Prize and be a world class fencer. Her energy and charm is contagious as she explains who she is, “I’m not a girl in a wheelchair. I’m a scientist. I want to change the world with my life and show that people in wheelchairs are just people like everyone else.”
Luticha, a 4th-year bioinformatics student at RIT, is the reigning Ms. Wheelchair New York 2011 and was named 2nd runner-up at the 40th Annual Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant held in August 2011. She’s a member of the professional chemistry fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma, co-founder and co-president of Rochester Young Professionals with Disabilities, as well as a member of the Roc City Coalition. She also makes time for SportsNet’s Wheelchair Fencing program in partnership with the Rochester Fencing Club twice a week.
Paralyzed in a car accident at 22 months old, Luticha claims that she was a shy and passive child growing up. “I hadn’t been around other kids with disabilities and I was more into reading books. My family and I didn’t even know sports were an option for me.”
When she reached 11, Luticha discovered SportsNet’s Rochester Rookies through her physical therapist. “To my surprise and the surprise of my family, I found I was a natural athlete,” says Luticha. “I really enjoyed competing and working hard to do well.”
Luticha played for the Rookies until she was eighteen. Her favorite part of being on the team was wheelchair racing on the track. Over the years she won many gold and silver medals, and a “Best Sportsmanship” award.
Since then, Luticha has remained active in SportsNet by participating in the Outrigger Canoeing fitness program. Fencing, however, is Luticha’s latest passion. She says, “It’s a new freedom I’ve never had in other sports. Aging with a wheelchair challenges you to look for sports that fit your life. I love the opportunity to fence and compete.”
Through SportsNet, Luticha not only improved her athletic skills, but her social skills as well. “SportsNet helped make me a well-rounded person,” says Luticha. “I still have my core group of SportsNet friends, but my social circle has expanded greatly. I’ve learned how to trust others. I’m so much more open than I used to be. Now I want to shout, ‘Look out world, here I come!’”
As Miss Wheelchair NY, Luticha volunteers with School Number 5’s science program where she uses science to connect with kids and adults. “When inner city kids see a young, black, disabled woman who’s a scientist – that’s a good role model for them. They see that people with disabilities can do non-traditional jobs.”
Luticha’s advice to kids is, “you don’t have to be the smartest person ever to do science. You just have to be curious about the world.”
A world traveler, Luticha has visited Costa Rica and Hong Kong. Her Costa Rican trip in 2008 was part of a 16-day disability exchange. Living with a host family in Costa Rica, Luticha saw how people with disabilities lived and were received by others. Shame and sin are labels people wear throughout their lives. And few, if any, resources are available to improve the quality of living. Luticha hopes to be part of a world-wide movement to make strong, positive changes for people with disabilities.
At home in Rochester, Luticha relishes the support of her loving family and enjoys the freedom of living in off-campus housing with her zany cat, Luna.
Learn more about SportsNet’s Wheelchair Fencing Program.