FOR Jontee Brown, looking for the positives in spite of dire situations is the most important things a person can do.
The 20-year-old was this week named Bendigo’s Young Citizen of the Year, inspired by his work in local schools and sporting teams.
He suffered a series of injuries following an accident on an overseas school excursion in 2015, diagnosed with reactive arthritis, then ankylosing spondylitis in his lower spine.
He said he felt grateful to receive the honour.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity that I have this year to help out within the community and try to do my best and learn a lot,” he said.
Jontee now uses crutches and a wheelchair for longer trips, takes his three year journey as the basis for talks to students across the region, allowing him to help younger individuals.
“It’s great to see how these kids can learn from you and look up to you,” he said.
“The biggest impact for me is seeing how happy these kids are and understand what I’ve spoken to them about.
“This year for me it’s just about trying to extend myself and spread the word even more, and look to help more people.”
An avid basketballer, Jontee continued his passion following his accident, in 2016 taking up the wheelchair version.
He has since already had a stellar career, playing last year on the bronze winning Australian side at the IWBF Under-23 World Championships in Canada, as well as captaining the Victorian representative team.
Jontee is also the reigning Bendigo Sports Star of the Year Cyril Michelsen Trust Fund award recipient.
He said that despite this week’s latest honour, the role doesn’t give him any more power than he had before.
“It’s great to win this award, but at the end of the day I can still go and talk to people in schools and talk to people in the community, so for me I think it’s (the award) just going to give people more of an outlet to me, more people I guess can know who I am and understand who I am and have contact with me,” Jontee said.
“It’s opened another door for me to be able to spread the word.”