Typically when the subject of diversity arises, it is about race and ethnicity. Given the history of our country and the demographic changes we are undergoing currently, it is not hard to imagine why those two aspects are the most often talked about. In this blog post, I address the subject of diversity of learning styles and embracing students with learning disabilities. Over the last five decades, Cumberland County College has built not just a reputation but a living legacy around serving students with diverse learning needs and abilities with a level of care and excellence that many tell us is unparalleled in the region.
When we think of bullying in schools and students who feel that college is not for them or they are not smart enough or they are different, one of the most vulnerable groups is students with disabilities. Often, they feel conditioned to define success in ways that are different from the prevailing measures like college completion, successful careers, home ownership, and other traditional metrics of success. Often, they are made to feel that they need to settle for something less than—to pursue careers that many not necessarily depend on their intellectual and academic abilities. At Cumberland County College, we believe firmly in the human potential of each and all of our students and we make special efforts to embrace those who are vulnerable and who have been made to believe that there are limitations to their potential to achieve.
Over the last few months, I have been not just impressed but proud to hear of the services that we offer students with learning disabilities. When I hear anecdotes about families that thought that their child could not achieve like their siblings and they come to blossom at Cumberland, I feel a deep sense of pride in our students and alumni with disabilities who are living legacies of our commitment to the unleashing the human potential of every student who crosses our threshold.
When I hear of students who thought that there’s been something “wrong” with them all their lives or who thought that they were “dumb,” and only to find out that they are diagnosed with a learning disability that is not insurmountable, that can be accommodated, that does not shut out the world to them or in any way limit what they can aspire to achieve, I am also proud of our people. When I see our quiet, shy, and reserved director of the office that oversees support to students with learning and physical disabilities get excited and passionate speaking about our students and their families, I can’t help but wonder what I can do to share the gospel.
As we celebrate 50 years of achievements, we will be showcasing all of our students, especially those who had been told or conditioned to think of their lives and potential as being limited only to come and blossom at Cumberland County College. They are the living legacies of our support staff, our faculty, and their families that believed in them now and continue to believe in them.