Calera’s Isabella Powell will take the stage at Samford University this month to compete in Miss Alabama 2019. Each contestant has a Social Impact Initiative and for Powell this community service platform stems from her mission to help her little brother, David and all children with learning disabilities. When Powell was 12, her family gained custody of David when he was seven months old. The transition marked David’s seventh caretaker since the Department of Human Resources rescued the infant from a non-running van in Ensley, Ala. Powell reflects that there was a period of adjustment for David and that he connected with her before anyone else. A whole year passed before David was comfortable enough to see the Powell family as his own forever family.
Powell explains they were a happy family of four, until the summer of 2016. “It was like someone flipped a switch, and David was a completely different child.” David began to lose interest in school, lost his ability to be around loud noises and transition from classes and could no longer read. Powell says that she saw him emotionally regress. During this tumultuous time, David was hospitalized twice after he said he no longer wanted to live. Looking for answers, her family had David tested for learning disabilities and he was officially diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder Syndrome.
After David’s diagnosis, a therapist explained he needed sensory stimulation breaks. Without the breaks, David would not be able to stay in the public-school system. David’s school, Calera Intermediate, had no sensory room at the time. “I made it my mission to raise money for the first sensory room to be installed in David’s school,” says Powell who founded and continues to coordinate “Gimme-a-Break ~ Providing Sensory Rooms for Children with Special Needs,” which is her platform through the Miss America Organization.
After fundraising and hours of hard work alongside volunteers, the first sensory room was opened at Calera Intermediate on March 15, 2018! Powell has since opened sensory rooms at other area schools including Pinecrest Elementary, Shelby Elementary and Elvin Hill Elementary and has raised more than $20,000 for sensory rooms. She shares that she is determined to make sure each school in Alabama has one.