Yesterday I published a blog post chronicling the ableism I experienced in my four years as a student at MSVU. I did so because it’s important to me that people understand the reality of attending university while disabled, and I believe that my experience at the Mount is an excellent example of why we need to do a better job of addressing ableism in academia. I think that it is crucial that we work towards creating a system that allows disabled students to succeed and to thrive so that those of us who want to pursue “higher education” are able to do so without unnecessary barriers. This will ensure that we, as a community, are better equipped to deal with other instances of discrimination and prejudice in our day-to-day lives.

The one thing that I didn’t discuss in yesterday’s post – purposefully, I might add – was how proud I am of myself for having graduated, and how grateful I am to all those who had a hand in helping me get there. I made the decision to make a separate post about this, because I think that, while the ableism I experienced is crucial to address, saying thanks is important, too. However, sharing my experiences is something that I hope will contribute in some small way to progressing towards a more accessible and accommodating post-secondary environment, whereas saying thank you is something that is more personal; therefore, I believe that both deserve their own unique and individual posts. So, this post will be dedicated to thanking all those without whom I do not believe I would have made it to convocation.

My Family: I am lucky enough to come from a family that loves and supports me in everything I do, no matter what. Throughout my life, my parents and my sister have been by my side in both my happiest and most difficult moments, and without their support – be it moral, emotional, financial, or otherwise – I know that I would not be the person I am today. I am also blessed with a wonderful extended family, and my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, have all been extremely supportive of me. Striving to make everyone proud has been a constant source of motivation for me, especially over the past four years, and I am so grateful for everything that you all have done and continue to do for me.

My Friends: Over the years, my group of friends has changed dramatically. However, at this point in my life I can say with confidence that I have the most incredible friends that anyone could ever ask for. Some of you live near, and others far, but you have all been there for me when I need you, and your constant and unwavering support and friendship has meant, and still means the world to me. Each one of you has made a unique contribution to my life, and I am so thankful to know all of you. I consider myself blessed to call you my friends, and I sincerely hope that we remain friends for years to come. I look forward to each and every adventure that life has to offer us together.

Dawn: I’ve told you time and time again that I find it remarkable how many roles you seem to have taken on in my life. You’ve been a friend, a mentor, and a therapist all in one, and at this point, I truly consider you family. You have been a constant source of support, reassurance, and motivation for me, and even in my darkest moments, you kept, and continue to keep me grounded. You believed in me when I couldn’t find the strength to believe in myself, and over time, you helped me to develop a sense of self-worth that I never knew I could have. Whether you’re here or in Toronto, you will always feel like a guardian angel to me, and you will always be my friend.

Dr. Mary Delaney: It’s hard for me to believe that I only first met you a few short months ago. As you know, the past two years have been exceedingly difficult for me, and in my last semester as a student at the Mount, you were someone who gave me something positive to look back on. You made your classroom accessible to me in a way that few other professors have done, and you never hesitated to provide me with accommodations if, and when I needed them. Your enthusiasm for what you do, and your willingness to give me an opportunity to sit down and have a candid discussion with you about chronic illness and academia are both appreciated and admired.

Dr. Alan Brown: In the summer of 2014, I took a class of yours called “Deviance”, and in that class, you asked us to write journals or reflections. When you returned my first journal, you told me in your comments that you really enjoyed my writing, and you asked if I had ever considered blogging. Now, a year later, here I am writing a blog post to thank you and everyone else who helped me make it to graduation. Over the course of the past four years, you have changed the way I look at the world, and at myself. You’ve been an incredible teacher and an extraordinary friend, and you are someone who I will always be thankful to know, no matter where life takes you next. I am grateful for who you are, not who MSVU wanted you to be.

So, to everyone: Thank you so much for all that you’ve done for me. You are all like little miracles in my life, and I am eternally grateful to each and every one of you. It is because of you that I was able to get myself to this point, and it is because of you that I will continue to push myself to achieve bigger and better things. I love you all so much, and thanks to your love and support, I know I’m ready whatever this next step in my life will bring.

– Stephanie, ECC

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