Inspirational Owls

John S.

John S.

Even though I have a condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), in my mind, I never labeled or visualized myself as someone who had a disability. I have used a power wheelchair since the age of four years old, yet I always felt like I wasjust a typical kid like all my peers. Despite my physical limitations, I had a strong desire to be a good student. I always had a love for sports, and because I was never able to play competitively, I made academics my own personal sport. Because of limited function in my arms and hands, in elementary school, I was introduced to assistive technology to help me independently complete my school work. I never really enjoyed being the only student in the class with a laptop, but now I realize that my laptop, glide-pad mouse, on-screen keyboard, and numerous other programs had a significant role in my academic success.

In 2015, I graduated from West Boca Raton Community High School in the top 15% of my class with a 4.1 GPA. My high school academic success led to me receiving a full college scholarship. I was ecstatic and nervous when I got accepted into FAU. I always had a history of being a good student, but I did not know what to expect as a college student. Shortly after being accepted, I received an invitation to join the University Honors ֱ. While I was honored to receive the invitation, I questioned whether I belonged in this rigorous program. However, after receiving additional information and learning about the benefits of the program, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself by enrolling into the program.

Throughout my four memorable years as a business management major at FAU, I worked diligently to maintain a 4.0 GPA. I also graduated as the 2017 Valedictorian of the University Honors ֱ, served as an Elite Owl Leadership and Service Ambassador, served as the Executive Vice President for The National Society Of Collegiate Scholars, and became a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, The National Society of Leadership and Success, and Phi Kappa Phi. I committed myself to accomplish these ambitious goals to demonstrate that people with disabilities and people without disabilities can achieve anything with hard work and true commitment to a vision. Everyone faces visible and nonvisible obstacles in his or her lives, and what people accomplish in spite of the challenges they face shows who they truly are as individuals.

I am forever grateful for Student Accessibility Services, professors, faculty, and family and friends who supported my academic endeavors. I plan on graduating in August 2019 with my bachelor’s degree in business administration (BBA). In 2020, I hope to continue my education by pursuing a master’s degree in business administration (MBA).

February 2019

Alexis V.

Alexis V.

Booker T. Washingtononce penned these words, success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. These words ring true for this month's Inspirational Owl.

My name is Alexis, and growing up, I was extremely active in the arts. I participated in everything from music and theater production, to film and graphics. However, at the age of twenty, I suffered a severe traumatic brain injury after being hit by a car while crossing the street on a romantic date. Not waking up from a coma in a day or two, or even a couple of weeks… but several months later left a very difficult road to recovery ahead of me. Just to name a few difficulties, I had to learn to walk, use my hands, eat, drink thin liquids and talk. To some, giving up may seem like the only option. If you were to ask a patient, educator or family member of a neurological disorder, to list the top five things you find as the most testing or difficult, “wondering” always makes the list.

I give thanks to God every day because in my case, many uncertainties have been accomplished through consistency and dedication. For example, when I was told about the accident, I was not able to walk or even hold my head up on my own. However, after I was sent to The Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia for the second time, I realized the difference between a brain injury and paralysis.The difference being the ability to have feeling in your lower extremities (brain injury) or not (paralysis). I was able to feel my legs but was not able to walk. I lacked the strength that was needed to take a step on my own. As a result of my injury, I was sent to the gym every day to regain my strength.No matter how I looked or what others thought, I went to the gym.

Once I started walking again, I had a new goal: to learn and understand. After approval from my physical therapist and neurologist, I was able to register for a class or two at Palm Beach State College. I took the same strategy that I used for walking to learn. Luckily, my tuition payments gave me access to tutors, and the necessary equipment and laboratories needed to succeed. I took advantage of the resources and went to get tutored every day! No matter how I looked walking in or what others thought about me walking in every day, I still went!

In the spring of 2018, I graduated from Palm Beach State College with a degree in Communications. From there, I decided to continue to further my education at Florida Atlantic University I can honestly say that I have not regretted making this decision a single day. The faculty of the Student Accessibility Services, and the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters truly care about the success of their ֱ. My family, mentors, employer, and amazing teachers are always offering their time to ensure that I understand different kinds of concepts, and how to apply them to certain situations. My advice would be to never, ever give up on your life!

November 2018

Jennifer B.

Jennifer B.

Audrey Hepburn, a British actress once said, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’”. This can indelibly be Jennifer’s mantra “I’m possible” after being told many times that attending college was not possible for her.

I struggled at first throughout grade school with my disabilities. Being told at a young age that I was different than the other kids in my class regarding achieving the same goals, made it hard for me to accept myself. My reading was not on the same level as the other kids in my class, and my comprehension skills were weaker for my age group. Reading at a lower level in turned affected my spelling ability. In elementary school, I had an Individual Education ֱ (IEP), and this became a fixture in my academic profile throughout school until high school. I would leave class early and go to another class to get hands on learning from another teacher. I felt stupid and thought I was not able to excel like everyone else in my class. My friends would always inquired of me, where I was going, and I was too embarrassed to talk about it. The older I got, the easier it was for me to accept who I was. Everyone is different in their own unique way. People learn at different speeds and people excel at different rates. This is what makes people beautiful in their own way. In high school, I did not planned on furthering my education, because I was not sure that I was cutout for college. I was not academically on the same level as other ֱ at my grade level. Therefore, making the choice to get my Associates of Arts (AA) degree wasn’t easy. It took me a little longer to complete my AA, but once I finished, I realized that I was capable of continuing my education. For the first time, I enjoyed learning and I had a goal that I wanted to achieve.

I am not the greatest at test taking; multiple choice questions have always given me test anxiety, and I do much better on fill in the blank questions. The extra time that is offered to me when taking an exam, helps me stay focused and not give up. I have learned to take tests from back to front [or bottom to top], which helps a lot. Even if I failed do well on an exam, I know that I would have tried my hardest. Applying myself is all that matters and never giving up is very important. After finishing my AA in Criminal Justice at a junior college in Marianna, Florida, I enrolled at Palm Beach State College (PBSC) as a Biology major and later transferred to Florida Atlantic University (FAU). I started FAU in 2016, and I am now a junior and will be graduating in the spring 2019 with a BA in General Science and two certificates, one in Environmental Science and GIS Mapping. I am currently a fulltime student, but most of my college years, I attended as part-time—focusing on one or two classes per semester. I believe that certificates are a great way to explore more options in learning about things that captures the interest. The certificate can then be used, if criteria is met, to fulfill any electives requirements. My GIS Mapping certificate also opened many opportunities for employment as well.

Recently, I started volunteering at a local state park this past year and was offered a part-time position within five months of volunteering. Through this experience, I discovered the importance of volunteering. Volunteering will provide a foot-in-the-door, and it is the best networking opportunity for future success. My end goal is to stay in the Park Service for a couple years, then apply to Florida Fish and Wildlife. It is completely natural to change one’s goal as long as it is achieve in the end.

Finding an interest makes the work seem easy and the struggle worth it. As I look back on my journey and the path traveled, I would have never guessed that I would be completing my Bachelor. The feeling of accomplishment makes all the struggles, all the sleepless nights, all the coffee worth it. Everyone has his or her own space and it is never too late to start and to finish something.

June 2018

Amy B.

Amy B.

The poet and philosopher Khalil Gibran, once penned these wordsOut of massive suffering emerged the strongest souls; the most massive character are seared with scars.” These poignant words are a transcript of Amy’s life journey.

Throughout elementary, middle, and high school, I was always in the top of my class in academics. I started college at the University of Florida, with an almost full ride academic scholarship, but I had to take time off after my freshman year to take care of my grandparents; however, I always planned on going back to school as soon as possible. So, when I had a severe motorcycle accident 4 years ago, things drastically changed for me. As a result of the accident, I shattered my pelvis in many pieces, had part of my skull surgically removed and replaced, and suffered some permanent nerve damage to my foot/leg. Due to my head injury, I suffered from ADHD, which would come to greatly affect how I would have to study for classes (exams); the bone injuries now made it difficult to sit for long periods to study, as well.

When I was ready to go back to school, I applied to FAU, in hopes of getting back to finishing my nursing degree. I was so excited when I was accepted. I was lucky to learn about the Office for Students with Disabilities (now called Student Accessibility Services (SAS)) through my financial aid advisor (before even beginning classes), and immediately started to look for more information on what they could do to help me, and what services I could acquire through them.

Over the last three years (with the help of doctors, family, friends, diet/exercise, and everyone at the SAS office) I have been able to put most of my injuries, deficits, and difficulties behind me. I have gone from experiencing excruciating pain every day, to experiencing rarely any; from getting distracted doing the smallest tasks, to being able to stay focused nearly all day. Without support from those who believe in us, no one can hope to achieve the great things we are all capable of.

Through their help and numerous hours of dedication to my studies, I have arrived at my last semester of nursing school, and I am on track to graduate this Spring, on May 4th of 2018. I have been able to maintain of GPA of 3.5 or higher throughout all 3 years here at FAU, received honorable mention to the Dean’s List for Fall 2017, was inducted into Sigma Theta Tau (the Nursing Honor Society), and will be graduating with honors.

Upon graduation I plan to start working as a “Graduate Nurse” as soon as possible, and then move on to working as a “New Grad” once I pass my Boards (the NCLEX Exam). I would also like to expand my knowledge base, to better myself as a nurse, and overall holistic health care team member. I am interested in taking courses, or even pursuing degrees, in nutrition, exercise science, and maybe even higher level degrees in nursing as well.

April 2018

Angela B.

Angela B.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go” are the words of T. S. Eliot, but could have easily reflected the resolve of Angela.

Growing up in Connecticut made it easy to fall in love with the four seasons. The blustery winter always allows the snowfall to be pretty on the first day. As winter gives way to spring, the once bare trees begin to bloom their gorgeous flowers. Then comes summer; a time when everyone seems to kick back and relax with friends. As summer dissipates into fall, nature puts on the most breathtaking show as the leaves of the trees changes their color as they blanket the grown with their leaves. Nonetheless, the beauty of the seasons did take away from the reality that my high school experience was challenging.

During my senior year of high school, I applied to Florida Atlantic University (FAU) where I was accepted. It was one of the happiest moment in my life, and I was determined to work hard to achieve academic success. As a first-generation American and the first of my immediate family to attend a four-year university, I can recall the many times my mother reminded me about the value of a quality education. She always told me that “knowledge is the one thing that you can have that no one will ever be able to take away from you”. The words motivated me many times when I felt like giving up.

Moreover, during the second-half of my first semester at FAU, I registered with the Student Accessibility Services (SAS) office and there I met with some great people. Their commitment to student support and academic success was in part the reason for my success. They equipped me with the tools to strive for excellence in my schoolwork. Because of my commitment to studying and my partnership with SAS, I was able to excel and as a result, I was able to make the president’s list and the dean’s list respectively as a college student. From high school to college, I felt that I had to always work harder than my peers to achieve the level of success they were achieving, but it is the grit and determination that I have that sets me apart from others. I persevered and was able to excelled and succeed the hardships that I had associated with school. Appreciating how blessed I am, I started volunteered in the emergency room at one of the local hospitals, and there I gain perspective regarding the struggles others are experiencing. As a result, I was infused with a passion to go forward helping others in whatever way I can.

Finally, the day that I thought and dreamed about many times had come, May 5, 2017. I graduated Magna Cum Laude and was able to walk across the stage as the first female in my family to graduate from college. I obtained a Bachelor’s of science in Neuroscience and behavior with a minor in psychology. To add to my jubilation, I was accepted into the FAU Master's program in Psychology which I plan to start in fall semester 2017. In the future, I plan on obtaining a Ph.D. in psychology or attend medical school.

July 2017


Neal R.

“If at first you don't succeed, Try, try, try again” were the words of Thomas H. Palmer, but these are also words that reflects Neal’s willingness to keep pressing forward despite the circumstance.

After completing a challenging high school experience, I was excited to start my post-secondary journey. This post-secondary journey commenced when I enrolled at Palm Beach State College (PBSC) to earn an Associate of Arts degree. As a student, I was exposed for the first time to a vast multi-ethnic, multi-racial, and multi-cultural student body. As their faces differ, so were their background. During my two-year sojourn at PBSC, I found myself working twice as hard in order to earn a good grade. Though I always found a way to excel academically, my struggles stem from processing the professor’s lectures and asking for help. These two ills isolated me, and kept me from soliciting needed support. To compound matters, my stuttering bullied me into believing that I wasn’t good enough to engage in class discussions.

Nevertheless, my determination and drive to succeed afforded me the opportunity to successfully complete and graduate with my Associate of Arts degree from PBSC. Shortly thereafter, I enrolled at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) to earn a bachelor degree in education. Unlike PBSC, I opted to live on campus at FAU; I wanted the full college experience. Living on campus taught me to be more independent and to put myself in newer social situations. However, there were times that I had difficulty processing information and expressing it back to people, and it was those times that I felt most embarrassed and as a result, I would terminate that particular social interaction much sooner. Even though these struggles stuck with me along the way, I kept pushing myself to make strides. At last, I cannot boast of making a thousand friends, but I did celebrate graduating with a Bachelor’s in Early Care Education from FAU.

After completing my bachelor’s degree, I used the time there after to volunteer at my local community library while studying for the teacher’s certification exam. This exam was very difficult at best, and after seven valiant attempts, I conceded with much frustration. My unsuccessful attempts left me broken and undecided about my future. Moreover, after much soul searching and discussions with family and friends, I reconsidered my passion and in 2014, I opted to apply for the Master’s in Social Work (MSW) at FAU.

Being accepted into the Master’s program had given me the jump start that I needed. Along the way, I met friendly and supportive classmates and teachers. They helped me grow because of the type of skills that were learned in and out of the classroom. During this time, I worked at Student Accessibility Services as an Assistive Technology Resource Center Assistant where I received great support and met interesting people with various challenges. Moreover, after acquiring adequate experiences and skills in the field of social work, I would like to start my own non-profit organization that provides summer camp experience along with other amenities and services for children and adults with social emotional, behavioral, and physical challenges. Until that time, I will continue to strive to make a difference and as I graduate on May 5, 2017 with my MSW, it would provide me the platform to do more to make the world a better place.

May 2017

Mariam I.

Mariam I.

The Roman poet Ovid once said, “Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.” These words are a reflection of Mariam who despite her trials, continues to press forward.

My journey began four years ago after I graduated from high school and enrolled in college to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry in my home country of Lebanon. During these three years of self-discovery and academic pursuit, I encountered many unexpected obstacles that tested my resolve, but my perseverance and willingness to learn and earn a degree were my major goals. Thus, proving that "nothing is impossible" even if you have a disability. One of the obstacles that contributed to the difficulties I encountered while striving for academic success was the fact that the college did not provide adequate accommodations for persons with disabilities. I was forced to use the staircase to attend a class that was located on the fourth floor because of the lack of elevator. This was not an isolated case because throughout the university there were no infrastructural accommodation for persons with disabilities. I was also compelled to complete my exams with the same allotted time as the other ֱ even though it was made known that my condition limits my motor function.

Despite these obstacles, I was able to successfully complete my Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry with a high Grade Point Average (GPA). After earning my undergraduate degree, my ambition let me to journey to the United States to begin my Master's Degree, and my travels led me to Florida where I enrolled at Florida Atlantic University. Currently, I am completing a minor in physics and I am poise to complete this program with an above average GPA. At the end of this program, I would have met the requirements to enter the Medical Physics program in Fall 2017. When I am not engaged in my own academic pursuit, I can be found tutoring ֱ in Arabic at the Center for Learning and Student Success.

Moreover, my academic life took a remarkable change after I migrated to the US and started attending FAU. As a student, I was eligible to register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS) office and there is where I found a network of support which included staff and ֱ. For the first time in my academic life, I was able to receive accommodations that are tailored to my specific needs. I was also made aware of the Palm Beach Paratransit services that provides door to door transportation services for persons with disabilities. However, despite the needed accommodations, I continue to find it difficult to physically walk long distances on campus to get from one class to another. During some of these walks, I have fallen to ground, and at times no one would lend a hand to assist me to my feet.

Despite everything, my goal is to get my Master’s degree and hopefully continue my journey towards my Ph.D. where I can apply my skills and knowledge. While doing so, I would like to raise awareness of this disability through my own experience and education. Finally, I hope to engage in scientific research to study this disease which causes my disability so a cure can be found to bring an end to this debilitating condition.

April 2017


Soeurette S.

James Buckham once said, "Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before."These words resonate with me because I am a native of the Caribbean island of Haiti and the first of my family to earn a college degree.

As a young girl, attending school was a pleasure; not only did I enjoyed meeting and playing with friends, but I also relished the experience of learning new things. I was an outstanding student and my grades were always in the top percentile of my class. I was loved by my teachers and my future looked bright. During my early to mid-teen years, it was becoming apparent that my interest was waning in most of the activities children my age indulges in. I felt a constant sense of tiredness with a great urge to remain in bed all day. This new behavior was not met with great enthusiasm so I suppressed what I was feeling with the hopes that it would soon dissipate.

After migrating to South Florida at age 17, I was optimistic that the chronic feeling of lethargy would vanquish away but to my surprise it only got worst. In some respect, I did not want to fully accept that there was something wrong. However, I was able to earn my high school diploma which refueled my desire for learning. The resurgent for knowledge led me to enroll at Palm Beach State College where I graduated with an Associate of Arts degree in Arts and Letters. My academic pursuit then led me to Florida Atlantic University where I completed a Bachelors of Arts degree in Arts and Letters. During that time, it was becoming apparent that I was becoming distracted in class and as much as I attempted to focus on what was being taught, I was easily losing my concentration. I would start, and stop because thing had gotten progressively worse after I had a car accident. I had to take some time off school. After I was able to walk again, I went back to school but my grades began to fall. It was then one of my professors noticed that my grades did not match my participation in class so she took me to the Student Accessibility Department. I did not know that there was a place like this on campus that I could go for help. I entered into the office crying and desperate; however, I left the office with hope.

My grades had improved so much that instead of having one bachelor’s degree, I have two bachelors at FAU. This is in spite of being told I needed to stop going to school because I was wasting my time. I came to FAU as a student with Disabilities; however, I became a student with different abilities. Currently I am working on a nursing degree, while I am waiting to get into the Physician assistant program. I would advise anyone who has a dream not to give up. It is not how much you fall that maters, but it is your willingness to get back up that matters.

Feb. 2017


Ndjuma J.

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit…the potential for greatness lives within each of us.” - Wilma Rudolph

My name is Ndjuma and I have a visual condition that resulted in me being born blind. I also utilize a wheelchair for mobility. I am presently a senior at Florida Atlantic University and is seeking a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education. The road on my academic journey prior to this point has been very rocky and at times very discouraging. However, when I first came to FAU, the faculty wanted to make sure that they would be able to offer me the degree and have an equivalent outcome, all music education majors in the state of Florida are certified Kindergarten through twelfth grade music. That means I would need to have a basic knowledge of all instruments: voice which is my primary instrument, piano which I will need in the classroom, and all wind, percussion, and string instruments. I can’t read music the way all of my peers are able to read music, and none of the faculty here at FAU were versed in Braille, much less Braille Music notation.Braille Music notation uses the same system of six dots that regular reading braille uses, but it uses them in very different and complex ways. And, while my music colleagues have a system of lines, spaces, and clefs that indicates pitch and a separate system of notes that designate duration, mine is all inclusive of those same six dots.

When I began my first semester as a music Major, I was afraid, I kept saying, I can’t do this, oh no, maybe I wasn’t meant to major in music? But the wonderful faculty from the department of Music have helped me in so many ways. They found a special program called Dancing Dots that allows music educators to teach blind ֱ braille music notation. They also found a music software that converts regular music scores into Braille music notation. In addition, they were able create special accommodations for all of my classes every semester. The faculty showed that they accept diversity, but much more than accept, they embrace it. Due to the level of support I receive from the musical department, my self-confidence has grown as I excel academically and socially. Now I can honestly say that I have the strength and belief that my dreams of becoming a music educator shall succeed!

This foundational training provides me with the skills and technical knowledge needed to inspire other ֱ who may have a disability and are interested in pursuing their goals in music! In addition, the Students Accessibilities Services (SAS) assistive technology team understanding the value of each student’s needs, found a special program called Dancing Dots that allows music educators to teach blind ֱ braille music notation. They have also tirelessly researched and utilized music software that converts regular music scores into Braille music notation. The dedicated staff created special accommodations and innovative solutions for all the challenges I encountered in studying music as a blind student. I really don’t know what I would do or where I would be in my academic journey without my FAU music family. They have inspired me to believe that FAU doesn’t only accept diversity, they embrace it and see differences as strengths!

As I continued to excel academically, my confidence also increased proportionally. Today I am a peer mentor and officer for the Women Vocal Arts Organization (WVAO). On this journey on which we all apart, I have learnt that attitude, resilience, and innovation will overcome any barriers that life sets up. Thus, I say, never feel bad for being different because it defines the person within.

Here is Ndjuma and Sarah singing the themesong from the 1971 movieWilly Wonka & the Chocolate Factory which waswritten byLeslie BricusseandAnthony Newley during SAS 2014 Volunteer Reception. !

Dec. 2016

Farah R

Farah R.

In the bookLife, the Truth, and Being Free,Steve Maraboli exclaimed,“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.” These words are personified in the life of Farah, a senior at Florida Atlantic University.

Starting life’s journey with an alleged deficit, I was compelled to work harder and to adapt a different perspective and approach to life. My early education incorporated mobility, braille, basic arithmetic, and daily living skills. Despite how successful and beneficial this program was during my early years, I nonetheless was never taught how to read or write regular print. However, because of my determination to be successful in life, I taught myself at the age of ten how to read and write printed text.

With the passage of time, it was clear to my parents that the school for the blind was not challenging enough, and in an attempt to support my hunger and thirst for learning, I migrated to the United States of America at the age of 13. In the US, life was not always what Hollywood portrayed it to be. I was required to speak the native language, and relearned American Contracted Braille. However, it was in the United States where I was first integrated into main stream public school system. I worked and studied harder than my classmates to prove to my teachers that I belong and to make my parents proud. I excelled in middle and high school and ultimately graduated Magna Cum Laude. After completing my high school education, I relocated to Tallahassee, Florida where I attended a local community college and earned my Associate of Arts degree in education. This degree made me the first in my family to earn a college diploma. Upon completing my Associates degree, I enrolled at a private college to pursue a dual Bachelor’s degree in K-6 and special education. When I began my concentration classes, my world was turned upside down. I was made to feel like an outsider due to the lack of support I received from faculty and staff at that institution. My classmates thought it amusing to critically comment on my “reasonable accommodation” which was at times tantamount to bullying. Nonetheless, I held on until the end of that semester and at which point I realized that my desire to become a classroom teacher was the framework and architecture of a childhood dream but as a young adult, I lacked the passion to continue on this course. It was during that first semester at that institution that I realized that my dream of being a teacher changed.

After that semester, I left that program and I returned to South Florida. Broken and bruised, my self-esteem had deflated, and the reality of my limitations plunged me into a mild depression. For the first time, I was made to feel and see myself as not being capable of doing anything. When I finished crying my last tears, with the aid of my friends and family, I began to disregard the lies which were self-defeating, and with much fervor I redirected my life. I believe that my challenges make me stronger and even though there are things which I am unable to do, there are many others which I can do and more than ever before, I want to make a difference in society.

Thus, I applied to the social work program at Florida Atlantic University. In this program I can utilize my passion for children and my desire for social justice. At FAU, I found a supportive network of people which include staff, faculty, and classmates who make me feel like anything possible. Many of my classmates and program professors view me as a capable future social worker and that gives me a sense of purpose. Therefore, it is no surprise that when I graduate with my Bachelor’s degree at the end of summer 2016, I plan to apply for the Masters of Social Work.

As I look into the future, I would like to one day work with families, connecting them to resources and knowledge that transforms lives. I believe that the earlier a child receive intervention services, the greater the probability for that child to excel in life and to escape intergenerational abuse that exist within some families. Also, I would like to be advocate for people with disabilities with a focus on the visual impaired community.

July 2016


Marcella M.

Rascal Flatts in the song, These Days penned the lyrics, “Life throws you curves, but you learned to swerve” is a fitting description on Marcella’s outlook on life.

Four years ago, in the summer of 2012, I started my journey at Florida Atlantic University as an undecided major, and today I’m a senior majoring in psychology. As a freshman, I was instructed to begin my educational journey at FAU by taking courses from the Intellectual Foundations ֱ, in order to meet the general class requirements. After taking some college level courses, I began taking classes geared towards my major. Although I enjoyed learning many new theories and psychological approaches, I was also beginning to experience difficulties maintaining my alertness and focus in the classroom. Dismissing the distraction and lack of alertness as nothing serious, I continued with life until I started becoming more distracted by my classmates. I was also having difficulties taking notes while the professor was lecturing, and taking tests around other ֱ. Thus, the experience became so consuming to the point where my grades were being affected.

Prior to attending FAU, I was unaware of any challenges that would hinder my academic success. However, as my challenges grew, I reached out for professional assistance. It was concluded that I was struggling with anxiety. Now that there was a condition for me to attach a name, I was willing to embrace my reality and solicit the help needed for me to excel academically.With the appropriate documentations, I proactively registered with the Student Accessibility Services (SAS) which was instrumental in ensuring that I received adequate accommodation for each class. In time, I began to rebuild my confidence and my Grade Point Average (GPA).

Today I’m thriving in my academic pursuit, and I am optimistic about the future knowing that I have access to resources that will help me through the rest of my academic journey. I’m expected to graduate with my bachelors in psychology in fall of 2016. At the completion of this chapter of my life, I hope to pursue a Master’s degree in Speech Pathology. I have also discovered four steps in overcoming life challenges. The steps include: accepting my reality, taking charge and getting help, living in my reality, and sharing my story. Sharing one’s experiences will help other people grow.

June 2016

Garrett M


Mae West once said, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” These words are reflective of Garrett who has discovered his passion and is living his life irrespective of what life throws at him.

A journey within a journey reveals my story. As a child, I was made to feel special and to believe that anything is possible despite being diagnose with Cerebral Palsy (CP). Little did I know that it would be that nurturing foundation that would sustain me in the years to come.

Due to my limited fine motor skills and the use of a power wheelchair, I have always stood out among my peers and the perception of being different was ever a reminder of my physical condition. During my middle school years, I was the victim of cyberbullying on separate occasions from persons of the student body. My high school years were not without its share of discrimination, and to compound the matter, some of the faculty did not believe that I had the cognitive ability to graduate high school because my dyscalculia. Because of my need to be accepted, these perceptions resulted in me feeling rejected and subsequently slipping into mild depression.

With the loving support of my family, I was able to regain my focus and on June 5, 2013, I graduated high school and was accepted at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) a few months earlier. Elated by my scholastic achievement when others doubted my ability was the fuel I needed to stay true to my dreams while visualizing my goals. That summer, I started attending classes at FAU, and quickly I realized that I was no longer in high school after coming head-on with the demand of classes and living on campus. Overwhelmed and almost in despair, I found an ally in the Student Accessibility Services (SAS). Their dedicated staff provided me with the tools and support needed to continue my journey at FAU.

As days fades into weeks and weeks into months, I look with greater intensity towards graduating in 2017 with my Bachelors of Arts and Humanities degree with a focus in Multimedia Communication. Upon graduating, I plan to relocate to California to pursue a career within the media and entertainment industry as a television producer. In preparation for my future career, I had the opportunity on FAU Owl Radio to produce and host my own radio show titled “Gar on the Radio”. In the summer of 2015, I interned with iHeartRadio which afforded me the opportunity to meet a few of radio’s major personalities and to understand the behind the scene operations.

Despite life’s many challenges, I am optimistic of the future as I continue to visualize my goals and staying true to my dreams.

April 2016

Stephen B

Stephen B.

“With [a] positive mindset you can graciously overcome any circumstance.” These words by Lailah Gifty Akita can be seen in the life of Stephen who is an alumni and a perspective Masters of Social Work student at Florida Atlantic University (FAU).

My journey began three months earlier than expected when I was born three months premature and was diagnosed as having Cerebral Palsy (CP). As a child with CP, life was difficult and filled with numerous challenges. I was subjected to the use of a wheelchair, and after several surgical procedures, and scores of physical therapy sessions, I gradually began to experience life out of the wheelchair. After being freed of the wheelchair, I began to utilize a walker to assist with mobility and eventually, I managed to walk without any support.

Despite the unsavory challenges I faced as a student attending public school, I was still able to graduate high school in 2007. Pursuing my goal of attaining higher education led to me enrolling at Palm Beach Community College (PBCC). As a freshman at PBCC, now Palm Beach State College (PBSC), I majored in Business Administration. I enjoyed learning about the many theories and practices that governs the business world, but unfortunately my pursuit of this major came to a grinding halt after struggling to get beyond the math courses. After much consideration with academic advisers and family members, I conceded to my math limitations. At this crossroad, I saw my disability as the vehicle which led me to a better self-awareness. It was at that very moment I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to be in the social field. I wanted to live my life by changing the lives of others for good.

After completing my Associate of Arts degree at PBSC, I enrolled at FAU as a social work major. The initial transition was not as smooth as I had hoped. However, I registered with the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) which has since been renamed to Student Accessibility Services (SAS) and they partnered with me by providing accommodations which allowed me to maximize my learning potential and abilities.

I also found instructors who were willing to work with me in allowing me to become acclimated to my new environment and rigorous work load. Because of these graces, success seemed like a legitimate possibility. However, that is not to say that the process was quick and painless…quite the opposite. I learned that not until I was forced into a corner that I was able to be resilient and think of scenarios with a strategic mindset.

One thing I have learned from that experience is that nothing is impossible. I am truly thankful that I was able to push through my limitations and grow into the person I am, today. With that in mind, I feel that no individual is beyond the capability of succeeding. Thus, I intend to continue my education through the Masters of Social Work program once I am accepted into the program in fall 2016. Following this foreseeable goal, I hope to proceed with the Licensed Clinical Social Worker exam in order to obtain my status as a licensed clinical practitioner. Eventually, I intend to establish my own Counseling Practice. All I have is today, and I find myself humbled by the kindness and support shown to me by so many generous individuals.

March 2016 wave

Michael K

Michael K.

Thomas Stephen Szasz once said, “There are two kinds of…persons: Those who dwell on what they have lost and those who concentrate on what they have left.” Michael, a 16 year old dual enrollment student at FAU High School and Florida Atlantic University (FAU) is a living example of determination and drive.

In 1999, I was born with mild to moderate spastic cerebral palsy (CP) and my parents were told that I would never walk or talk. I have learned throughout my short life that if someone tells you that you can’t do something, you should do your best to prove them wrong. So, with the help of my parents, various physical therapists, and my personal trainer, I was able to accomplish both things that the doctors once said were “impossible” for me. Soon I will be strong enough to transition away from my walker into canes, which will bring me one step closer to my ultimate goal: independence with walking and in life.

As a 16 year old high school junior with a walker and a golf cart on a college campus, most would certainly consider me unusual. My experiences with CP have taught me to aim high and achieve higher. With that mindset, I have challenged myself to excel academically and as a result, I was granted the opportunity to pursue my college degree while simultaneously completing my secondary school education. After enrolling at FAU to begin my Bachelors of Science in Mathematics, I registered with Student Accessibility Services (SAS) and discovered a team of people who were kind and caring towards me. In SAS, I have a place where I feel accepted for who I am, and a place to interact and network with fellow ֱ with varying disabilities.

When I first attended preschool at the Rehabilitation Center for Children and Adults (RCCA), everyone was given a sign. My sign was the owl, so I suppose one can conclude that it was destiny that led me to FAU. It was at RCCA that I met some of my closest friends who dealt with some of the same things I did. With them, I feel like I belong. In contrast, through my elementary, middle, and freshman year of high school, I was always separately addressed from the other ֱ. This worked against my need for inclusion. Now, I am grateful to all the wonderful people at SAS who for the first time have allowed me to have somewhere to truly belong at school.

Once I graduate from high school in spring 2017, I will have approximately one semester left to complete my Bachelor’s degree. After completing my undergraduate degree, I plan to attend graduate school. I am not certain what career I would like to pursue in the future, but for now, I am working with what I love: numbers.

As I pen these words, I hope not to be misconstrued, but I did not share my journey primarily to inspire others, despite the fact that some may use this as an inspiration. I wrote this to be accepted for who I am as a person for the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. I am writing this to share with others who do not accept people with different kinds of abilities that we deserve acceptance and to be treated like everybody else. I can only live my life and be me. I am also hoping to encourage others that are struggling to accept or to be accepted because of their differences. Cerebral Palsy is part of who I am, and I embrace it because it has helped shape my character. It has brought me friends that I otherwise would not have met and opportunities that I would not otherwise have. I am happy and grateful for where I am today, and I would not have things any other way.

February 2016 wave

Norma R

Norma R.

My name is Norma and I was born in 1951; the same year when “The African Queen” starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, premiered in Hollywood. I shared my birth year because too often it has been said by well-meaning persons, “I am too old to return to school”. Mark Twain puts it this way, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Thus, I would like to encourage such persons that if I can do it, they can too.

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a lawyer, but as an immigrant with two young children and a husband to care for, my dreams were deferred. I wanted to accomplish my inner ambition so bad I would dream about it constantly. Forced to help support my family, I took up domestic work and at that point, I saw only a shadow of the woman I once was and the person I aspired to be. Desperate and broken, I cried out to God to restore the desire and ambition of my youth. The following semester I enrolled in a bible college but at the end of my program, I felt unsatisfied. My thirst for knowledge spurred me to register as a student at Broward College. While pursuing my Associate Degree, I was in a life changing motor vehicle accident which shattered the bones in both knees. I underwent surgery on both knees but later was force to have a complete knee replaced with still added surgical procedures pending. During this period, I was grateful for friends who would take me to school in a wheelchair and when the elevator was broken, they would carry me up the stairs. This experience was reminiscence of my dependency on others after a life threatening stroke in 1999. As if that was not life changing enough, in 2009, I suffered a massive heart attack and quintuple bypass resulting in being fitted with stents to aid my arteries.

After overcoming these many challenges that would have caused the faint at heart to abandon their pursuit, it was to me fuel to finish what I had started. Thus, I was able to graduate with my Associate of Arts degree in Criminal Justice and apply to Florida Atlantic University (FAU). Upon being accepted at FAU, I proceeded to register with Student Accessibility Services formerly called Office for Student with Disabilities where I met some of the most caring and interesting people. They introduced me to some assistive technology such as the Livescribe pen and Kurzweil and books in alternate format to assist with the learning process.

Getting up every day and walking onto FAU campus gives me a sense of pride. I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and the next time I do so, it will be walking across the stage to accept my Bachelors of Art degree in criminal justice. Accomplishing this much reminds me that all things are possible if we only try. My next leg of the journey entails taking the LSAT exam and then applying to law school.

December 2015

Alyssa H.

Alyssa H.

Chris Grosser once said, "Opportunities don't happen. You create them," and here at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), Alyssa is creating such opportunities via her scholastic achievements.

When I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to study Electrical Engineering and FAU made that possible. In middle school, I learned that I had a vision disability and had some trouble advocating for myself. How do you explain to someone that you don’t know what you can’t see? Florida Atlantic University has been able to provide me guidance and assistive technology that enables me to keep up with my classmates.

Although I tend to set high expectations for myself, I was able to persistently ‘hit the ground running’ at FAU. As a freshman, I not only secured a paid assistant research position with my engineering chemistry professor, but I also dedicated a portion of my time for my own research project in biomedical engineering. This commitment yielded much by allowing me to write a paper on the project, which has been published. To add to the busyness of my week, I attend Saturday research lab where I mentor freshman in their research projects.

During my studies at FAU, I have received numerous grants. One such grant focused on the using electrochemistry to stimulate the growth of coral reefs that pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. This culminated in me being selected as the Undergraduate Researcher of the Year for the College of Engineering. Apart from research, I have worked as a TA for Calculus and volunteered as a Freshman Mentor. This year, I have continued to propel myself forward and take on greater responsibility, such as being elected President of both Society of Women Engineers and Owls Supporting Diversity Club, and Secretary of Tau Beta Pi; while tackling 17 credits and working 20 hours a week. However, above all the accolades and accomplishments, I am committed to my academic success and as a token of that unwavering commitment; I was able earned the President’s list designations on my transcript.

In the month October 2015, I was selected as the Student Talon Award recipient for Leadership and Service at FAU. As a junior at FAU, I am considering pursuing a Ph.D. or a research related position in the future. Until then, I will continue to allow my ability to outshine my disability while being an inspiration to other perspective woman engineers.

November 2015

AnnMarie B


“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”—Helen Keller

I am a 27 years old and two time Florida Atlantic University graduate who was born 4 ½ months premature weighing only 1 pound 4 ounces and completely blind. The doctors did not think I was going to live, let alone walk, or talk. Today, each breath I take is a token of my determination. I do not let my lack of physical sight stop me from achieving my dreams and do not think of myself as having a “disability”. Being visually impaired is part of what makes me the strong and positive person I am. When someone meets me for the first time, they often wonder how I do what I do (from remembering things to being independent). I reply “I don’t know, I just do”, or it may be a result of being placed in early intervention at two years of age and being mainstreamed throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Moreover, despite my academic success during these formative years, it did not shield me from the fiery darts of discrimination because of my disability.

Upon completing high school, I enrolled at FAU, and for the first month, it was difficult because I was chartering a new territory and environment, but like every challenges I had ever faced, I was determined to succeed. The Office for Students with Disabilities played an integral role in my success at FAU. They assisted me with self-advocacy skills, and also introduced me to many types of assistive technology such as JAWS and the Kurzweil software which further enhanced my autonomy in and outside of the classrooms. Moreover, once I learned how to navigate the FAU campus independently using my cane, I started assisting other ֱ on how to traverse the busy campus. Over time, I came to know my way around the campus like “the back of my hand”.

In 2011, after many late nights and laborious class assignments, I was finally able to achieve what once seem unattainable. I was finally a college graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in social work. With the taste of success pulsating throughout my being, I was spurred on to pursue my Masters of Social Work. While in the Master’s program, I completed two internships focusing on adults with disabilities, and on May 2015, I once again walked across the graduation stage where many have gone before me to receive my Master’s degree in Social Work. With my degrees in hand, I hope to work in a university setting helping college ֱ with disabilities.

October 2015


Nakia B.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” ― Maya Angelou

In 2008, I was a Traffic & Logistics Manager for one of the largest perishable food companies in the United States, after suffering a nervous breakdown. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I. In 2012, in the prime of my career, my life once again suffered a dramatic change. I suffered the first of two heart attacks and a stroke within a seven day period. As a result, I lost the ability to walk on my own, and the ability to clearly speak for nearly four months. As my physical therapy was nearing its end, two of my Physicians suggested that I take the time to speak to an advisor at Florida Atlantic University's (FAU) Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) to see if assistance would be provided to enable me to complete my Bachelor's degree.

After being accepted into FAU, I enrolled as a Junior, majoring in Sociology. With the assistance of the OSD, I was able to successfully pass all of my courses. On June 29, 2013, I suffered a major heart attack and had to take the summer semesters off to undergo rehabilitation and extensive cardiovascular therapy. After returning to school in the Fall of 2013, with the assistance of the OSD, the Sociology department, and Dr. Marsha Rose, my Undergraduate Mentor, I successfully earned passing grades in all of my courses. In May, 2014, I graduated Cum Laude with my Bachelor's of Arts degree, with a Major in Sociology.

Today, I am registered as a graduate student at FAU, but due to illness, I had to take an Emergency Medical Withdrawal. Nonetheless, my dream of earning a graduate degree was not curtailed, but rather, it is stronger than it’s ever been and at my first opportunity, I will return to the classroom.

September 2015


Avery G.

"Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." These are the words of Francis of Assisi, but also the experience of Avery, a 21 year-old junior at FloridaAtlanticUniversity (FAU), and an aspiring writer who is seeking to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in English with a minor in history.

Despite the increased anxiety that goes hand in hand with college, I still persevere through my battles against OCD, PTSD, ADHD, anxiety, insomnia, depression, tachycardia, and scoliosis daily. Furthermore, while managing a demanding class load, I still make time to serve as the president of the English Club and previously as the secretary of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Moreover, I have learned to channel my frustrations brought on by the disorders into my writing. In May of this year ( 2015), FAU’s literary magazine Coastlines published my poem “Dear Doctor.” This poem, which addresses my mental ailments, doctor’s appointments, medications and their negative side effects won the Aisling Award in poetry. Rather than allowing my mental and physical ailments to act as a crutch, I have learned to accept the challenges they pose for me every day. For every day I am winning my battle, and every second I am enduring what many cannot. By accepting my diseases rather than succumbing to them, I have learned to live purposefully with it, not by it!

Dear Doctor

Thank heavens, dear doctor, your schedule is free!
Of course, my child; now what shall it be?
I see you suffer from OCD—
Take these two Paxils and same time next week.

Dear doctor, dear doctor, what fevers what chills!
What painful poisons were put in those pills?
My apologies, dear; let’s try something new—
Take a dose of Luvox, but four not two.

Dear doctor, dear doctor, what horrid headaches it brings!
I breathe to vomit, as if I have food poisoning.
Such luck my dear; let’s cure your PTSD—
Swallow three Gabapentin, three times daily.

Dear doctor, dear doctor, too many says I!
I could not lift my head, as I waited to die.
Good heavens, young child; let’s keep you out of a trance.
Now for your ADHD, here’s twelve Vyvanse.

Dear doctor, dear doctor, I cease to shake!
Since I last saw you, I’ve neither slept nor ate.
Alas, my child. Finally I see!
Take them all at once, but only once daily.

Dear doctor, dear doctor, you came to visit me!
Here on my deathbed, gravely ill as can be.
Why yes, poor child; how else to collect my money?
But you promised to cure me, and all appointments free—

July 2015


Zachary L.

Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” These words ring true in the personage of Zachary Larkins whose determination for success provided him with the impetus to overcome life’s obstacles.

At the tender age of two, Zachary faced the greatest battle of his young life as he fought to live after accidentally drowning in the family pool. His resolve even as a child kept him, and today he continues to defy the odds with a traumatic brain injury that affects his motor coordination and speech. Not allowing himself to be overcome by adversities, Zachary thought it best that a life worth living is a life worth giving, and that he did by choosing to intern twice at Veteran Administration hospital in Orlando, Florida.

Today Zach is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University with a Bachelor'sdegreein Sociology. He is currently working on his master’s in psychology at University of Phoenix, and his next step is to work with veterans who are affected with traumatic brain injuries.

June 2015 wave


Diego P.

Thomas Paine once penned these words, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

As a native of Colombia, Diego started his life’s journey legally blind and as a result, he learnt from an early age the virtue of determination and perseverance.These two virtues are the hallmark of his life, and in 2007, Diego took a leap of faith and left his homeland to pursue a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering at Florida Atlantic University (FAU). After completing his Master’s degree, Diego entered the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program. In the Ph.D. program, his research was in Fourier Optics which entails laser images for photographs that can be taken up to 10 Kilometer (km) away in complete darkness. He has also published several articles and is currently working on a patent. During his tenure as a student at FAU, Diego worked as a Teacher’s Assistant (TA) in Control Systems and Electrical Lab 1.

With his Ph.D. in electoral engineering in hand, Diego is looking forward to contributing towards the advancement of engineering. Thus, it is no surprise that he is currently employed at Aventusoft, a Biomedical Engineering company that designs medical devices where he is currently working on developing a specialized heart monitor.

May 2015