​Education Gives You the Wings to Fly!

Posted by Kelsi Weaver in Life After Paralysis on November 21, 2022 # EmpowHer Stories

KelsiSomething I noticed about having a disability while being a higher-education student is that sometimes you really have to rise to the occasion. What I mean by this is when you are in college, you may feel the pressure of having to perform well academically, or you may feel the pressure of being a part of something bigger than yourself being on campus, joining school organizations and clubs. Maybe even making new friends and getting used to the environment.

But the biggest issue with me was breaking down the stereotypes. When you go into the classroom for the first time, it may be a little nerve-wracking. First, you have to prove to yourself that you can do this no matter what obstacles you may face. Then, you may face some stigma when it comes to working with professors. Lastly, sometimes you may have to fight to get the support that you need to be successful, such as assistive technology.

But I hope you know that even if you feel tired, even if you feel defeated, you can make a difference. Every day, when we go out into the community, and we make our voices heard, we are making a difference. My higher education journey started 2 years ago, in the Fall of 2020, when I decided to pursue my associate’s degree in mental health from a local community college in my area. I still remember the first time I went into the building. I was so nervous I could feel all my emotions in the pit of my stomach! I knew what accommodations were and what accommodations were best for me because I had used them all throughout my school career. I met with my college advisors who, from the very beginning, made me feel totally at ease, and I never felt like a burden for one second!

My biggest tip for students with disabilities who want to pursue higher education is to make sure you know the accommodations that you need to be successful. If you are unsure about that, you can talk to a person who you trust about what accommodation would be best for you.

When I first went to college, I didn’t know a lot of people. Finding friends was hard for me at first. But once I was able to open up, I found people who I made genuine connections with. My advice to any student who is planning on pursuing higher education is to “find your people.” What I mean by this is to find people in your life who you can lean on for support, and you can also help support. That way, you can bring out the best in each other and push each other to work hard.

Something unique about my college experience is that I had two friends on campus who also had disabilities. One friend graduated the year before me, and the other friend and I had the pleasure of graduating together. For me, this was really empowering and I really appreciated their friendship and encouragement.

After graduating with my associate's degree in mental health, I decided to continue my education and earn my bachelors in social work. There have been some challenges, but what motivates me is looking at the bigger picture. My goal is to become a social worker who helps make the world a better place for people with disabilities, whether through policymaking and advocacy or other avenues.

Whenever I get discouraged, I think about that goal. It is one of my biggest passions, and I've always wanted to help people. Overall, navigating life and pursuing higher education with a disability can be extremely hard at times. However, always know that whatever field you choose to go into, you will make a difference!

Kelsi Marie Weaver is a writer and passionate about making the world a better place for people with disabilities. She is currently attending Ohio University Eastern to earn a bachelor's degree in social work. If you want to check out more of Kelsi’s writing, check out powerfullydisabled.com.

Kelsi wrote this blog as a part of the Disability EmpowHer Network and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation collaborative blogging program, which uplifts the voices of women and girls with spinal cord disabilities.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.