Minority U: Sorority Sister and Survivor

Story by Aleya Evans

One of Central Michigan University’s core values is to adhere to inclusion.  This edition of Minority U focuses on the inclusion of students with disabilities.

Courtesy of Emily Evo

Meet Emily Evo, a current member of the Zeta Theta Pi sorority, and CMU senior from Grosse Pointe Woods. Evo is majoring in Secondary Education as well as minoring in English as a second language.

Below is a Q&A with Evo as she explains the difficulties of living with a heart condition, which she feels uncomfortable disclosing, while being a student:

Explain the difficulties of being a student with your disabilty. What obstacles have you had to overcome?

Evo: “I was born with a heart condition, and I’ve overcome a lot to get to where I am today. It was very difficult for me to attend school as a teenager, and sometimes, it can still be difficult. I have had to fight very hard to be able to attend college and soon, graduate from it. I’ve come very far. There are things I can do today that I used to never be able to do- some of it is simple, like walking up a flight of stairs, and some of it’s more- like going to a concert, or going for a run. It’s exciting to be able to do things now that I couldn’t have five years ago.”

How has having this condition had a positive impact on you? What does having this condition change for you?

Evo: “Sometimes it’s hard to see the positive in having a chronic illness, but one very major positive outcome for this is how aware I’ve become towards differentiation and accommodations for others. I want to be a teacher, and a very important part of that is being able to adjust in accordance for people with disabilities. My teachers have helped a lot with that in the past, and between them and my own experiences as a student with chronic illness, I feel very confident in my ability to help other students who might need differentiation or accommodation. It also has made me fired up about disability rights. I’m very passionate about advocating for myself and others. It’s important, and many times, it makes positive changes that can make a huge difference in someone’s life. It makes me feel proud that I can help others in this way, and grateful that I have that knowledge.”

Courtesy of Emily Evo

What does being in a minority group mean to you?

Evo: “Being a minority means a lot to me. In many ways, the world as a whole needs better accommodations for people with disabilities. I am disabled, and I have a lot of experience where someone refuses to accommodate, or someone disrespects me because of my disability, or I can’t do something because of being improperly accommodated. A lot of the time, none of those experiences were caused maliciously- they happened out of lack of knowledge. People don’t always understand what being inclusive means or what reasonable accommodation is, and they work on that lack of knowledge. So I guess being a minority to me means helping others to the best of my ability- because I know what it’s like to desperately need that help- and it means educating others on disability rights and inclusion. It’s fun for me. I like changing the world, one step at a time.”

What advice can you give to students with a similar or even different disabilty?

Evo: “To others with a chronic illness, I’d like to say this: it can be hard, but you have to listen to your body. Sometimes you might need to stay home and rest, or if it’s bad, you might need to take a semester off. But sometimes listening to your body might be as simple as asking your friends to have a night in, instead of going out. It can be hard to keep up with that consistently, and it probably seems really obvious, but it’s important. I still have trouble following that. I know am having a bad day, and I should stay home and rest for a day, but I will still try and go to every class and meeting I have. The result is usually not fun, and it’s not very smart. Listen to your body, and in the end, your health always comes before school.”

Courtesy of Emily Evo