When Hope Johnson receives her undergraduate degree in English from Messiah College (currently anticipated to occur in 2014) there will be a cadre of like-minded souls reveling in her achievement. Among them will be a small group of women who have invested their time, energy, and endless physical and emotional support toward a single goal: to help Hope achieve her dream of earning a college degree. That moment will serve not only as a personal and academic milestone for Hope, but for the college as well. Because when Hope graduates, she will earn the distinction of being the first nonverbal, nonambulatory graduate of Messiah College.
Rather than see herself as physically challenged, Hope alternately describes herself as “lucky, blessed, and gifted.” When asked what has been the most significant benefit of her relationship with UCP, Hope enthused,
It has been the opportunity to live independently (with the help of my mom and attendants of course) and receive a college education. It proves that I can do anything with my life, even live in a dorm not especially designed for individuals who have physical limitations. I never thought this possible before my involvement with UCP. I find myself so lucky to live at a time where the general public accepts physical disabilities.
That acceptance has made all the difference in the world for Hope.
For three years prior to transferring to Messiah, Hope attended college in North Carolina at a school that was designed expressly to accommodate the needs of people with physical disabilities. Unfortunately, as Hope learned, accessibility is a far cry from acceptance.
Today, she couldn’t be more enthusiastic or excited about her experience at Messiah.
Combined with the academic experience, the overall campus venture at Messiah College has been very positive. I’ve always been motivated to get my college degree, but the experience at Messiah College has been so much more than that. It is the general feeling of fitting in, being just one of the students. The atmosphere at Messiah has been extremely welcoming. Everyone is so friendly and accepting. I feel that my Cerebral Palsy is overlooked in the classroom, as well as in the campus setting, and my academic abilities take center stage. That’s awesome!
Read Hope's full story in the Summer/Fall 2010 Issue of Life Without Limits
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