Kadaline Jackel (she/her), a 2022 Dinah F.B. Cohen DREAM Fellow, discusses her experience with Disability Rights, Education, Activism, and Mentoring (DREAM), which provides resources to disabled college and university students. The following article is written by her.
My first semester of undergrad, I earned a 2.92 GPA. Fast-forward four years, and I graduated from an entirely different university, earning the distinction of summa cum laude (a GPA over 3.90!). My time in college may not seem typical, but unfortunately, it’s all too familiar for students with disabilities.
Less than a month into my first semester of freshman year, I endured an experience that left me a completely different person, but I didn’t realize it at first. A year later, I learned exactly what was “wrong” with me: I now had post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It seemed like everything about my brain worked differently: I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t control my emotions, and I struggled to read even short paragraphs for the longest time.
Combining the effects of my new diagnosis with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, I knew the only way forward was to transfer schools. So, I ended up at Hofstra University, and co-founded Hofstra’s own chapter of Disability Rights, Education, Activism, and Mentoring (DREAM). Fun fact: DREAM Hofstra was the first undergraduate disability advocacy organization on Hofstra’s campus since the 1980s!
What is DREAM?
DREAM is a national organization that has chapters on college campuses and universities across the United States. It is sponsored by the National Center for College Students with Disabilities and the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota, in partnership with the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD).
While each local chapter can establish their own goals, DREAM’s aim is to provide resources for disabled college students to connect with their campus communities, and the disabled community at large. Through DREAM, disabled students are supported in finding opportunities for mentorship and advocacy, and they are empowered in their disabled identities.
What did DREAM Hofstra do?
In our first year, DREAM Hofstra achieved so much, but the organization still had a long way to go by the time I graduated. Some of my favorite things that we accomplished were: hosting craft nights with our members, meeting with various high-ranking members of the university administration, and hosting Hofstra’s first specialized ceremony for graduating seniors with disabilities. We also won a student leadership award for promoting equity and justice on campus!
As DREAM Hofstra’s president, I had the opportunity to learn about my own needs, how to ask for accommodations, and to work with some of the most amazing and inspirational people I had ever met. Using my position as president, I taught myself about advocacy, and I also taught myself to listen to those with needs differing from my own. Transferring to a new college with a new disability was terrifying. I had no idea there were people like me that were also worried about the future and seeking a more accessible and inclusive campus–but there were! And, thanks to DREAM, I learned about the Dinah F.B. Cohen DREAM Fellowship.
If you want to learn more about DREAM Hofstra and my work there, check out these Hofstra Chronicle articles from 2021 and 2022! You can also check DREAM Hofstra out on Instagram and Twitter: @DREAMHofstra.