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There was once a young girl with a learning disability. She was quiet, socially awkward, and kept to herself but was kind and intelligent. One day a girl in class she liked talked to her for the first time. The young girl was ecstatic. However, the following day that same classmate came up to her and said I hate you and walked away. What is hate? The dictionary says its a tense or passionate dislike of someone. Yet, is that all it is? It’s a way to put someone down, to build confidence, to get your way.

A teenage boy is bullied at school and struggles with his classes. He is always worried and anxious about everything. His ticks and obsessive-compulsive behaviors interfere. His grades drop and he wants to drop out of high school. Yet, he did not quit school due to a single teacher’s devotion to him. He followed his passion. He received his masters and became one of the top employees at his workplace.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

People are not very open about suicidal ideation. It can be embarrassing and shameful for some. People with emotional/mental issues tend to cover up their suffering. They do not want others to see it or be a burden. People will suffer in silence and fight it the best they can. When people are suicidal they hide it, but there are signs. Professionals are always looking for these signs, knowing that right before suicide; people are calm and happy because they know they will no longer suffer. People often misinterpret this calmness and happiness as the person doing better. Unfortunately, by this point it is usually too late.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

A large part of disability etiquette is policing your words. It is about being respectful and courteous in what you say. It is very easy to use the wrong words, to phrase a statement in the wrong way. A small slip up, a small shift in connotation can drastically alter a message. At the same time it is important to police your reaction to those words and phrases. Everyone has their own unique perspective of their disability and stigma that influences their reactions.

The disability community is very aware of the negative effects of words and phrasing. The “normal” community, with some exceptions, is often unaware of this effect. Sometimes normally harmless words and phrases become insults to those with disabilities. The person-first versus disability-first argument is one of many phrasing etiquette issues. It is an issue of possession I-am versus I-have. Using ‘I am’ (ex. I am autistic) puts the disability in possession of the person. Using ‘I have’ (ex. I have autism) puts the person in possession of the disability. Putting person first also places the individual higher in value than his/her disability.

Two words that have made a small shift in connotation are disturbed and suffering. The word, disturbed, is a description of emotional distress. However, some are applying the word as a identity label. A person’s identity is defined by emotional distress. The word, suffering, is a way to describe that a individual is experiencing harmful effects. However, some are applying it as a possession label. The person’s suffering is in control of his/her life.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

Last semester, I attended the CUNY IT Conference to learn about new innovations in Assistive Technology and Accessibility Information.  I was just waiting for some colleagues and looking at my nametag when there was this realization that I’ve done alright (amazing what a simple nametag can do).

The backstory is that I am a high school dropout and I had little direction for a long time, I was truly just wasting my life away (long story). That is until I found my calling working with people diagnosed with various disabilities.

Fast forward, I finally earned my bachelor’s degree in 2011 (the same year I got married), I like to say I took the 20+ year plan.  Now, today I’m working on my second master’s degree, and working as the Assistant Director of a Disability Service Office for a major New York City college.  I’ve also got great colleagues, great friends, great family and a great wife! I’ve done alright, indeed.

Sometimes in unsettled times, one has to remember how far one has come and just say, “I’ve done alright.”

Now tell me, have you done alright?

Daniel Chan is a belated student who took the 20+ year plan to get his Bachelor’s Degree. He recently received his M.A. in Disability Studies and is working on his M.S. in Disability Services in Higher Education. His proudest academic achievement is still his GED.

You wake up and wonder whether you’ll survive the day. Can you endure another day of pain and suffering? How much will you sacrifice? Will you be able to achieve the days goals? Do you go out into the world or stay in your safe haven? You put on your mask, hiding your emotions away and head out into the world. You wonder if your mask will slip and people will see your vulnerability. You hope someone will see through to the real you, the you crying out for help. Survival is becoming harder, the mask slips, your shield cracks. Your emotions are overflowing. You are exhausted and irritable. You can’t take in anymore. The dam has broken.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

Dear Honorable President Barack Hussein Obama II and Family,

I felt the need to write you this letter for two reasons, to say thank you and to say I am sorry.

THANK YOU.
I don’t know how many people have thanked you for being one of the greatest Presidents we have ever had in this country. Through judgement of your legitimacy and unsurmountable opposition, to every move you have tried to make for the betterment of this country, you have served this country with style and grace in a way that no President in my knowledge has ever done. You and your family have done so much, knowing that you will never get the credit you deserve.

I am an army veteran, and throughout your Presidency, regardless of the decisions you have had to make, I have never been more proud to serve this country. You and the First Lady, Michelle Obama will be the examples of who I want my children to desire to emulate. You have inspired me to be a better version of myself every day, and after you leave the Presidency I will continue down that path.

The fight that you have fought does not and will not end with you. You are an inspiration to people the world over.  You have held the world on your shoulders in a way that no one ever believed you could and you did it as a gentleman and a scholar.

To the First Lady, you are the standard of how women across the world should be held to.

To your daughters, be proud in the fact that your parents are heroes in every sense of what a hero is supposed to be. They should be proud of the fact that they have played part in the making of a symbol of greatness for people who have been too far under served by this nation for too long.

I AM SORRY.
I am sorry that too many of us have left you to do this alone. I am sorry that too few of us in this nation took up the mantle of hope that you started this journey with and spread it across this nation. I am sorry that that we abandoned you on the battle field in Washington D.C. as many of us sat back and watched while you were attached from every side imaginable, and then blamed you for not doing enough. You have never let us down; we have forsaken the faith that you had in us. I am sorry that somehow we allowed hate to beat out love.

There is so much more I want to say, but in this moment, my heart is heavy.

However, there is an upside to this dark day. Today is my birthday, and when I woke up this morning I cried, because this is the first time in my life I feel ashamed to have served this country. Then I looked at my son and I reinvigorated in my focus. I was reminded of why you inspire me. My gift to myself on this day is to work harder than ever in everything that I do. I will not let this wave of hatred weaken my stance against animosity in any of its forms. I pray that others will join me in fighting against all the division and distraction that has crawled out of the darkness, by way of the Republican representation and those of like-minded ideologies.

Your victories will stand forever in me and all those who are now can see our current reality.

Lauren Patterson is a single father, student in the Communication and Program program at CUNY SPS, entrepreneur, and a veteran. However, first and foremost Lauren is a student of life. Lauren is a self-proclaimed work in progress, and thrives on his motto: live to be the successful person you already are.

The election is over and we have a new President. Not the one I wanted admittedly (for several reasons), but the election is over and Mr. Trump won.

Now, unlike what President-elect Trump and what some of his supporters said in the run up to the election; I DO recognize the legitimacy of the electoral process. I do NOT advocate for armed rebellion because the candidate I supported did not win. I DO recognize that he is the President–elect and no, I do NOT hope for his “removal” by extrajudicial means.

I DO hope we can come back from all this and at least put on the veneer of civility but I admit that may be difficult because of some “words” that may have been said/typed in the heat of anger. Most importantly, I DO hope that President-Elect Trump means what he says when he says he will be a President for ALL Americans.

I DO hope his definition of Americans will include minorities, immigrants, and people of different faiths, people with disabilities and differing sexual orientations and identities.

Good luck President-elect Trump, we’ll all need it.

Dan

Daniel Chan is a belated student who took the 20+ year plan to get his Bachelor’s Degree. He recently received his M.A. in Disability Studies and is working on his M.S. in Disability Services in Higher Education. His proudest academic achievement is still his GED.

Consequences
A little girl with autism was on a long car ride across many states with her mom and grandma. There were no exits in the area. They could not stop because she might run out into traffic. The girl was tired, hungry, overwhelmed and started to break down. She could not express her frustrations and needs because of language difficulties. Her mom was unable to calm her down. The girl hit and scratched her mom. By the end of the trip her mom’s arm was covered in scratches and bruises.

How would the mom explain the bruises and scratches? What insulting remarks would they endure in regards to the girl’s behavior? What if the mom decided to risk stopping? Would the girl have run out into the street? How would they survive even greater stigma and the repercussions of the girl running out into traffic?

What If
A young girl with autism goes to the renaissance festival with her family. She was very happy and excited. However, an hour later she became overwhelmed. The crowds and loud noises were causing sensory overload. She struggled to process everything going on. Her stress and anxiety levels shot through the roof. Her dad took her to a quiet, secluded area.

What if things didn’t turn out well? What if she had a meltdown? What would people think? Would the police or social services be called? Would the family suffer injustice stemming from stigma and ignorance?

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

A Cruel World
The world is cruel in many ways. However, life is about persevering in the face of adversary. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Three Words
We fought again. You are worthless. I hate you. Love is gone. I lost control. I killed you. A shattered soul. I committed suicide. Life moves on.

Life is horrible. I am lost. I am here. A broken heart. Please help me. You are strong. Love is alive. A life saved. The world remembers.

Ignorance
People say ignorance is bliss but it’s not. Ignorance hurts you and you are ignorant of those damaging effects. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Just wait until it backfires on you.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

There is a cliché about teachers. They say “those who can’t do, teach.” I am currently working as a Pre-k and Kindergarten teacher in a bilingual school in a small town in Haiti. Haiti is not even a third world country, but a fourth world country, so you imagine how poor it is. I am sure everyone has heard lies such as it is dangerous. Please do not believe the media.

Being a teacher is not something you do because your dreams fail. It is a dream. It was mine. I knew I wanted to become a teacher since before my junior year of high school. I love it and I would not trade it for any other job. Sometimes, I want to rip my hair out when my kids are a little out of control, but I love them. I work in an amazing community. A couple days ago, I came in to the first and second grade class, and this little girl comes up to me and hugs me and looks at me and tells me, “Miss Flora, you are beautiful.” At that moment my heart broke and I told her I loved her and she was so beautiful. These kids do not hear that enough.

Every weekday morning, I wake up at 6am to try to change the lives of my kids. We need more teachers in the world who care and are dedicated, but especially in Haiti. The school I work for is the only bilingual school in the town I live in, as we are a small town and not the capital. I became a teacher to impact these kids and change their lives. I want them to be able to learn English and French and get any job they want. I want to see these kids succeed, that is why I am a teacher. When I see that one of my students knows the material, I am proud of all of my students. This is why I work hard. Teaching is one of the hardest jobs out there, and you have to have the heart, skill, knowledge, and desire to do it.

I am also currently also back at school to get my degree in disability studies because one day I hope to open a school for children with disabilities in Haiti, as there are no real resources for that. Try being a teacher and being a full time student. I get up at 6am, review lesson plans, print out extra materials I may need for the day, work through my lunch period, bring work home, and do my own school work, lesson planning, and so much more. It is exhausting, but I love my job more than anything in this world. It is who I am.

People ask what I do when they meet me? I am a teacher because I want to change children’s lives. I get to make a difference. I may not be a doctor who is saving lives, but I am developing the brains and character of future doctors, lawyers, politicians, and more.

Flora Cross is an elementary teacher working at a bilingual school in Haiti. She grew up in Haiti and returned after many years of absence. She has travelled the world with her journalist father so writing has always come extremely naturally. She is currently enrolled in the Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS. Flora hopes to open a school in Haiti for children with disabilities.