WINGS kicks off a Thunderous Year with America’s Got Talent finalist - Celebration, Florida

On Tuesday, August 27, all 600 5th-8th graders at Celebration K-8 School filed into the gym for WINGS’ (Women’s Initiative Nurturing Girls’ Strength) annual kickoff assembly. This year, WINGS was incredibly honored to have Mandy Harvey, a 2017 finalist of America’s Got Talent, speak and perform. Mandy grew up in St. Cloud before moving to Colorado. At the age of 18, while she was studying vocal music education at Colorado State University, she lost her hearing due to a connective tissue disorder. She subsequently left the university and temporarily quit music. Instead of giving up, Mandy used “visual tuners” to find the correct pitches when singing. She went on to release three studio albums and win VSA International’s, the international organization for arts and disability, Young Soloist Award. In 2017, she auditioned for America’s Got Talent, where judge Simon Cowell gave her the golden buzzer, sending her to the finals. Using her ukulele, Mandy performed her own songs, impressing the crowd and judges enough to come in fourth place.

Mandy shared her inspiring story with students during Celebration K-8’s Career Week. Mandy taught students about resiliency, something that is needed not only in one’s career, but in life. Resiliency is a crucial life skill to have but learning how to deal with failure is often not taught in schools. Mandy stated she coped with her hearing loss by taking joy in the little things in her life. We were also lucky enough to have Mandy perform two of her songs, including “Try,” the song that she played for her America’s Got Talent audition, which has over 500 million views on YouTube.

At the end, students were given the opportunity to ask Mandy questions, while an ASL interpreter translated for her. Many wonderful questions were asked, but one stood out to me. One student asked Mandy if she could feel the vibrations of the music. Mandy responded that she feels the vibrations best through hardwood floors, which is what is in the gym. Before Mandy spoke, Rose Pollzzie, a school counselor, asked the students to please use the ASL version of clapping instead of clapping their hands for applause. Students followed these instructions throughout Mandy’s speech and performance. However, after Mandy shared that she could feel the vibrations through the floor, without being prompted by counselors and teachers, students stomped their feet while doing the ASL version of clapping to generate thunderous applause. It was really moving to see the students’ support of Mandy. The last question that was asked was, “If you had all the power in the world, how would you inspire people?” Mandy honestly answered that no one needs power in order to be inspirational. Simply by being yourself and refusing to give up on your dreams, no matter what life throws at you, is inspirational. Thank you to Mandy for exemplifying what WINGS stands for!

Celebration Foundation’s WINGS (Women’s Initiative Nurturing Girls’ Strength) program was created to explore ways in which girls and women can reach their highest potential. Goal setting, leadership qualities, and positive self-image are some of the topics explored through Power Lunches, done in partnership with Celebration K-8 School, and regional events.


By Breanne O’Leary

The above article also appears in the October 2019 edition of the Celebration News