‘Bigger Than Just Myself’
Anna’s professor, Dr. Gilson, admires the journey her student is on. “She’s really passionate about special education, and even more than that, she’s passionate about helping people and making the world a better place.”
Anna doesn’t approach inclusion as something that should begin and end at the school doors. Or something that is simply a nice thing to pursue. She knows that perceptions and discrimination of those with disabilities extend into every aspect of life. Changing that begins by empowering these students with a strong education and encouragement to follow their dreams — the same thing everyone wants and deserves.
“They are just so determined and they have so much that they want to give and so much that they can give. I think often we say, “That’s great,” and we celebrate that, but then we don’t actually do what needs to be done to make that happen … These students can be teachers. They can be filmmakers. As a society, we should encourage that, and we should open those opportunities for them.”
Anna’s friend, Matthew, who is part of the Aggie ACHIEVE program, wants just that – to be an animator or filmmaker. Anna says he will be. And society needs to acknowledge and support those goals.
When asked what he wants people to think of him, Matthew says, “What I want them to know is how significant I am. I’m one of the few people who can do lots of things that no one else can do.”
Working with A&M and the Aggie ACHIEVE program has shown Anna the power of her impact. “I’m being challenged and I’m being shown what my path is and what my purpose is.”
“It’s just my heart was so into it and it is what I look forward to. I realized this is my calling, this is what it feels like to understand your purpose is just doing something you love and not even having to think about it.”
“She’s going to be a phenomenal teacher. She will also be an advocate, a researcher, and a uniter,” said Dr. Gilson.
Dr. Olivia Hester, Program Director of Aggie ACHIEVE, says, “I can’t wait to see where [Anna] goes in life because I know she is just going to be at the very top. I think we’re all going to know her name.”