Amanda Velez Elizabethtown, KY 3,546 Votes
I was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy when I was a child and started using a wheelchair when I was nine. While slowly losing my ability to walk, I let my emerging disability negatively define me—I was “that girl in a wheelchair.” Though I had many friends, I always felt like an outsider, isolated and misunderstood. I grew up keeping my sadness a secret and pretending to be happy when all I wanted was to be someone else. I immersed myself in writing, creating brilliant fantasies where I was a “normal” girl, an adventurer, or simply someone able to walk and run. As I matured, my childish stories of a different me transitioned into poems where I began exploring who I was as a person. As I shrouded myself in grief and mourned the life I thought I would never have, I looked deep into myself and saw a person I refused to be. Leaving behind the sadness of my “loss,” I emerged a person with much empathy and understanding towards others. I refused to be just another sad girl in a wheelchair. I would go to college and someday become a counselor so I could help other people whose sadness threatened to destroy their life.
I graduated from high school and went on to Transylvania University in the fall. With my dream in mind, I declared my major early and set goals. Because of my grades and position within my class, I was inducted into the psychology honorary, where I volunteered on campus mentoring perspective psychology majors. I see my greatest accomplishments in the years I worked in the school’s writing center where I used my love of writing to help other students cultivate their composition skills. I worked with struggling students to achieve a positive result, fueling my pursuit of a career where I could help people no matter their circumstance or need.
I graduated cum laude and with honors from Transy, the first in my family to receive a bachelor’s degree. I have already achieved more than I ever imaged, and I refuse to give up on myself now that I’ve come so far. Without a doubt, my college experience solidified my ambition of becoming a resource to those who simply need a listening ear or a crying shoulder and it solidified my understanding of myself as more than just another sad girl in a wheelchair.