Bay View freshman receives ‘Heart of the Arts Award’ for Rhode Island

Student honored for her dedication to performing arts despite living with neuromuscular disorder


RIVERSIDE — St. Mary Academy - Bay View freshman Cecelia Egan has received the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) “2018 Heart of the Art Award” for her dedication to performing arts. As the Rhode Island representative, Egan is now eligible to be one of eight section finalists that can win the National Award this summer.

Living with Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA) a degenerative neuromuscular disorder that limits her mobility, Egan first captured the spotlight in the spokes of her wheelchair four years ago as a fifth-grader and has since become a beacon of light and inspiration on and off the stage at Bay View.

A dedicated student with a typical freshman course load, Egan balances academics, performing arts and traveling to medical appointments out of state. As a member of the Bay View Players, she has performed in countless theatrical productions, often integrating herself into the cast without calling attention to her wheelchair and need for assisted mobility. Her courage and infectious smile has redefined her place in the school community and has inspired a deeper meaning of the program’s definition of “ensemble.”

“Cecelia is a great source of strength for all of us, she brings us to our center. She is center stage,” said Bay View Performing Arts Department Chair Christine Kavanagh.

Through her personal courage, Egan has proven that the stage welcomes anyone with the determination and openness to showcase a love of performing despite physical dependence on others. She advocates for expanding artistic and interpersonal access to the performing arts for students with physical impairments, and has literally put her “wheels in motion” to make performing arts more easily accessed and enjoyed by all.

“I am very happy she won this award, because she is the nicest and sweetest girl. She embodies the Heart of the Arts award,” added fellow class member Caitlin Connallon.