by Hannah Sbeghen
CAITLYN Donohoe might not be able to lift her hands above her head but it hasn't stopped her from being crowned a star leader in Biloela.
The 17-year-old, who was born with a rare muscle condition, arthrogryposis, has defied the odds and won regional youth leader of the year after Lions Club judges recognised her impressive portfolio of community engagement.
The award didn't come easy - the Biloela State High School teen faced a challenging test of public speaking, general knowledge and impromptu questions.
Despite lacking physical movement, Caitlyn said she always tried to look past her physical obstacles and focus on what she was good at.
"Technically I don't have biceps so I can't move my hands above my head," she said.
"The best way I like to explain it is that, just like you, I was born with different sets of arms and legs but I'm the same on the inside, my body is just different.
"I don't think about it very much but you can never forget about it. Every day is a constant reminder that I am physically dependent but I think it makes me want to work harder and give back in other ways.
"In a way my disability subconsciously drives me to do all I can with what I have."
Caitlyn said she took the youth leader competition as an opportunity to share her story and break the stigma that comes with having a disability.
"If everyone is more open to having a conversation about disabilities, I believe it's the easiest and quickest way to make any stigmas disappear," she said.
"I think it is really important to break down social barriers because discrimination comes from not understanding one another.
"The Youth of the Year competition was pretty nerve-racking but I took it as an opportunity.
"I have a physical disability and it's been hard at times but I feel blessed at the same time."
While this is Caitlyn's last year in her Central Queensland hometown before she moves to Brisbane to study at the University of Queensland, she wants to make a difference in her community.
"I love Biloela because it's big enough to have opportunities but small enough to be intimate and know everyone like the Rotary members and the councillors," Caitlyn added.
"It's one of those places where you can go to the shops and you forget why you came because you've bumped into five or six people you know to have a chat with."
The teenager has displayed community spirit since she was five and has organised events in Biloela including Christmas in July and regular trivia nights.
She says she does it for the community. Her biggest achievements were being the president of the Interact Club and ambassador of STEM education (science, technology, engineering and maths).
"I think I would love to work for the UN and work with refugees one day," she said.