August 12, 2011

by: LeafBridge Services Contributor

Transitioning to College

For the remainder of August we will be focusing on transitions–transitioning from early intervention to school, from public school to work or college and transitioning as an adult into a more independent living arrangement.  Life changes and transitions are difficult for many of us, but successful transitions can have a powerful impact on individuals with disabilities gaining the highest level of independence possible for themselves.  This week, UCP Intern and soon-to-be Cleveland State University graduate April Holmes shares her experience transitioning into college.

My name is April Holmes and I have been granted the opportunity to complete my undergraduate field placement here at UCP of Greater Cleveland.  Participating in field placement this semester I have learned that patience and communication are vital tools. I have learned that things are not as black and white as our society often makes them out to be. Sometimes we have to explore outside the box. We have to be innovative in terms of retrieving information. It was quite the learning experience working with clients with disabilities and the experience opened my eyes so much; UCP clients are just like everybody else—fun, loving and full of life. They just want to be independent and be looked at as individual. They want others to look past their disabilities and see the person.

This is concept that I understand all too well. I was born with cerebral palsy and while one might think that this handicap would not allow me to be as mobile as I am, it has actually enhanced my ability to become independent.  I have never let my disability control my life or limit me from doing certain things. I have always tried to do things to the best of my ability. It was not an easy task to tackle but what I can say is that I did not give up.

I have accomplished so much more than I ever dreamed.  I have an awesome support system, and my family and friends give me the strength to push through any obstacle that comes my way. I would like the opportunity to give that very gift back, to help someone find their strength, confidence and drive. I would like to become a part of their support system and help make their transition into independence easier. I have been asked many times what my transition from high school to college was like.

The truth is my transition was very difficult.  I lost my mother and I lost myself for a while in the process. I feared going to college. I did not know how my peers were going to react to me. I had no idea what they were going to think. I questioned my abilities—‘can I really compete on a college level?’ Then I remember thinking that I had made it this far and I couldn’t give up. The first time I stepped foot on my college campus it was overwhelmingly scary. I did not know where to start or who to ask for help.

Many colleges offer support and opportunities for students who have disabilities but unfortunately it took me at least two years at college to figure that out. I struggled through classes. I had to learn my way around campus by myself and I was faced with a few people and personnel who were not as nice and helpful as we would hope them to be. My advice to an individual who has a disability who is transitioning to college is do your best and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Utilize your professors and fellow classmates for guidance and support. Don’t let your pride get in the way of utilizing the disability services at your university or school. Disability services are there to make sure that you have the supports you need to be successful. Disability services can help you receive the proper tools to succeed by providing assistance with notes, testing arrangements, living arrangements, securing financial assistance and advocating for you with faculty and staff. With the help of disability services at my university I am able to perform beyond my greatest potential.

The lessons I have learned and that I hope you learn is to follow your instincts, always be persistent and ask for help when needed.  Utilize the services available to you such as disability services.  Build a support network of family, friends and faculty that will not only support you but also push you to do your best. Stand up for yourself—there will always be obstacles. I truly believe the key to self advocacy is having a strong awareness of one’s abilities and courage in addition to having the ability to take constructive (and sometimes unconstructive) criticism. 

April Holmes

UCP Intern from Cleveland State University


 Links to Disability Services at local colleges and universities:

Cleveland State University:

Cuyahoga County Community College:

Kent State University:

Baldwin Wallace College:

Ohio State University:

University of Akron:

Bowling Green State University:

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