Column: Overcoming challenges

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By Shawn Gelushia

I grew up in Kansas City, KS. I was in the Turner School District from preschool through high school. I am a student with disabilities and was in special education all throughout school. There have been plenty of obstacles that I have had to overcome most of my life. Some of the biggest obstacles I have had to endure happened in high school.

One of the biggest obstacles that I had to overcome was being bullied by some of my classmates. It included name calling, getting hit, and pushed around by students who didn’t know how to treat a person with disabilities. I was even thinking about dropping out of high school because I felt like I could not take it anymore. Another obstacle that I had to deal with was having two teachers and a school psychologist tell me that I would not be able to go to college because they thought my disabilities would not let me be successful. If I had listened to what they were telling me I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Luckily, there were two paraprofessionals that told me to not give up and that I needed to get my high school diploma. I thought to myself that they’re right; I needed to take a stand for myself. I made friends with the football team and the cheerleaders, and they stood up for me when I was being bullied. One of my most important days of high school life was when I went to prom, but the biggest day was when I had my family watching me walk across the stage and being handed my high school diploma.

After high school I worked for four years at different jobs before deciding to go back to school. The first school I visited was Kansas City Kansas Community College. I didn’t feel comfortable with the way the college looked and smelled and the staff was not very helpful.

One of my friends told me about Johnson County Community College, that it was a very good school and the professors were great and encouraging. I came out to enroll and was greeted by very nice and helpful staff members in the Student Center. They helped me fill out my application and enroll in my classes. After my first semester I took advantage of Access Services. It’s available to students who have disabilities. This program has helped me tremendously. As a person with disabilities I have had to fight for my own independence to become the person I want to be in life.

There has been another challenge that I have faced in my life. I was in eighth grade when I realized that I was gay. I was teased in high school because of how I looked, talked and acted.

When I came to JCCC, it became so much better. You can be yourself and be accepted for who you are. My fellow students and staff treat me very kindly here on campus. My major is journalism/communications and the whole department is like one big family. One of my professors, Molly Baumgardner, has helped me to be comfortable when I am doing JCAV news and ECAV radio. She has always encouraged all of her students to be themselves and to never give up.

As a gay student, I was looking for a club to be a part of and I found out about the Queers and Allies club here on campus. It’s a great way to meet other people who have a different sexual orientation. I was later elected treasurer/ public relation person for the club. Another part of the club is being open to going into classrooms and answering questions about your life as a gay person.

I feel like I have grown a lot here at JCCC and I am very excited to go to K-State next year. I have learned to work hard and believe in myself.

Contact Shawn Gelushia, circulation assistant, at sgelushi@jccc.edu

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