My name is Zack Pollack and I’m 24 years old. I’ve been challenged by Cerebral Palsy (CP) since birth. I am a quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair. I’ve lost most of the function in my arms and legs, but I am a bright, personable, optimistic and friendly person.

I graduated from Emerson High School in Emerson, N.J., Class of 2015, where I was honored with the annual award for top student in media/journalism.  I am currently a seminary student at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in New York City, and I hope to one day obtain ordination as an Orthodox Rabbi.  I am also a public motivational speaker, speaking to many different groups, including public school students, private/religious school students, companies and charitable organizations on a variety of topics.

I am dedicated to inspiring people—particularly young people—and motivating them to be better human beings. As an observant Jew, I have a deep faith in G-d, as well as faith in the goodness and potential of people of all backgrounds, races and religions. I believe in the power of love and the importance of helping one another. Together as friends we can help make this world a better place for everyone.

I was born 3 months premature on December 1, 1993 at Mt Sinai Hospital in New York, NY. I weighed a pound and a half and was hospitalized for three months. When I was young I underwent several surgeries including an extensive and very risky 10 hour spinal surgery in 2008 at Columbia/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in NYC to correct a severe curvature in my spine. The difficulties I endured prior to, during and immediately after my surgery were life-threatening. However, I survived and recovered and ultimately, post-surgery, I had an “aha” moment where I realized something: life isn’t just about living; it’s about living with a purpose. If you believe in your strengths, your weaknesses will disappear and your strengths will prevail.

It’s important to believe that your strengths can turn your dreams to reality if you let them shine through and work hard to achieve your goals. I want to motivate people to believe in themselves regardless of their hardships and to persevere with their dreams. this belief you can overcome your difficulties and achieve any goal that you desire.

I have spoken to many different schools, including numerous elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and college classes, in both urban and suburban environments. I have spoken to school assemblies of several hundred students, as well as small groups in classrooms. I have also spoken at political campaign fundraising events, synagogue dinners, and other events besides presentations at schools.

Each speech I give is different and is tailored for that engagement. I speak about a number of themes, including inclusion of people with disabilities; friendship and being a helping hand to all classmates; stopping the pervasive problem of bullying; the power of positive thinking and never giving up; the importance of education; the importance of Faith in G-d. My presentations include two short videos made about me, as well as a poetry reading about bullying, and a brief “skit” I perform about bullying.

Unfortunately, I have some experience with bullying, and the huge national problem of school bullying deeply moves me and concerns me; so I make my anti-bullying message central to my presentation, with the importance of inclusion of people with disabilities. I have had students listening to my presentation break into tears and confess to being bullied or to bullying; students have written me beautiful cards, thanking me for speaking to their class and promising never to bully anyone ever again!

I also speak about the importance of extending friendship and a helping hand to all one’s fellow students, thereby expanding our circle of friends to include all those around us. I also frankly answer the many questions my curious audiences have about what it’s like to live with severe physical challenges, and try my best to impress upon my audiences despite my quadriplegia, we are all more alike than different. The things we have in common as young people unite us and can bring us together, once we get beyond the surface differences between us.