2016 Letter to Students
Hello incoming first-year students (and parents)!
My name is Dan Darkow and I am super excited to welcome you to Wright State University. I am here to offer my insights and tell you a little about my experience as you prepare to continue to write your life story at Wright State. I graduated May 2015 after 4 years and can say the best choice I ever made was to attend Wright State and test my level of independence.
I'll tell you a little bit about myself- I am originally from the Cleveland, Ohio area and went to Avon Lake high school. I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type II and was diagnosed at just over 18 months. I got my first power wheelchair at the age of three and have been using one to get around ever since. Since a very young age I became interested in all things technology. From that point moving forward that gave me an idea of what I wanted to study when I went to college. I always knew I was going to go to college, my family just didn't know how that would be possible until I visited Wright State University. I toured one other university in Pennsylvania, Edinboro University and decided that wasn't for me. Wright State offered me the level of independence I was looking for with the support needed to be successful. While at Wright State University, I majored in Management Information Systems, and minored in Computer and Information Technology (kind of like a minor in computer science), became heavily involved with the Office of Disability Services, Residence Life & Housing, as well as various student organizations on campus.
I am going to be honest, Wright State doesn't have a magic wand to make a student with a severe physical disability be successful in the higher education arena. With determination and a hard work ethic on behalf of the student, it is possible and is done every day. Wright State's ODS has the resources, experience, and knowledge to help you succeed by creating a proper plan. One major aspect of being successful at Wright State University, and life in general, is figuring out who is going to work for you as a Personal Assistant. This conversation can get really complicated really quickly, so I will give you a brief overview of myself and how I navigated the Personal Assistant realm. I am on the Ohio Medicaid Waiver and therefore must use Medicaid providers or agencies to cover my care versus if I had a private funding source or BVR, I could use Wright State's ODS Personal Assistants. While at Wright State my PAs were employed by Maxim Home Healthcare as well as independent hires through a program called The OOD PCA Program. Over the course of my time at Wright State I was able to recruit and have people become employees of Maxim as well as direct employees to work for me. That might sound confusing and I would be willing to speak with you further about how this whole situation works if you would like.
Technology is my love and I found that many different forms of technology greatly improved my experience throughout college. I have had other laptops in the past and really enjoy my Surface Pro 4 because it is very versatile and lightweight so I need minimal assistance with it either in my residence hall or on campus or in class. It has the full functionality of any full laptop, so I can do absolutely everything on it. I have also used other various forms of assistive technology such as a Livescribe Pen, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, smart home technologies, and others. If you would like more information on the Surface or other forms of technology I would be more than willing to help.
Adjusting to college can be a difficult experience, but know that it can truly change your life! Different people have different scenarios for sure, but the most important thing to know, it is what you make of it. I was really looking forward to moving on in my life (even though I loved high school) but I was still nervous. Once I arrived, the experience is, what I said earlier, what you make of it. What you choose to become involved in will definitely help the degree to which you enjoy the college experience. The students who struggle the most are those who fail to fully embrace what higher education has to offer socially, personally, and academically. Find your passion areas, find your nice, be open to expanding your horizons, and take advantage of all the opportunities Wright State has to offer.
Last fall I started my Masters degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education at Miami University in Oxford, OH with the hopes of one day working for a disability services office at a university level. After completing my first year at Miami I can truly say how impactful being at Wright State was for my educational and personal development. The personal care skills, the independent living skills, and the self-advocacy skills I obtained through my four years on campus will forever inform the way I live my life.
I hope that some of the information I provided you is helpful and you make the necessary preparations for when you start. Take time to come up with a plan, a backup plan, and another backup plan for making your time at Wright State the most successful as possible in all aspects. You do have more work than our able bodied counterparts preparing to attend college, but I have confidence in you, the Office of Disability Services, and the larger Wright State University community as a whole to work with you and support you in your journey!
If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to email me. Best of luck in your future endeavors!
What made you decide to attend Wright State? What would you tell other students who are evaluating Wright State as a possible college choice?
Reaching towards my dreams, growing academically, and as a person has all been made possible by Wright State University. Never in my life have I been discouraged about myself because of my disability and if I set my mind to do something I will find a way to achieve that goal which is why I decided to attend Wright State. Wright State offers the opportunity for students with all types of disabilities to fully experience the college experience and everything it has to offer. I like to tell people I was sold by “the elevator buttons and door openers.” The thought that Wright State puts into its facilities to make them fully accessible goes above and beyond the ADA is really what sets it apart from others. The shear fact that I can reach the elevator buttons because there are two sets, one higher and one lower or flipped horizontally, make the world of a difference meaning I can independently utilize the elevator without asking for help. The services that the Office of Disability Services offers gives students the opportunity to live independently and achieve academic success with providing the required assistance.
Everyone who knows me, knows I love my home... Wright State! Wright State’s commitment to its students from all backgrounds with all ability levels helping them reach their dreams is something I am extremely proud of. I love Wright State because we pride ourselves on inclusion and not exclusion. Coming to Wright State was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Wright State accomplishes so much by embracing diversity, inclusion, and taking interest in each students' lives. The opportunities and dreams that are fostered by this university are incredible. I can't imagine myself being anywhere else but here. From day one, I knew this was the place for me and immediately felt a sense of community and belonging. This is the place for me and I can't wait to see what the future holds. I have become part of the Wright State Family, made lifelong friends, and received an excellent education which has set me up for great success wherever my life takes me all with the support of the Office of Disability services helping me along the way.
What are your career goals after graduating and how have your professors and staff members at Wright State helped you achieve those goals?
After graduating with my bachelor's in Management Information Systems, I hope to further my education by receiving a masters in Student Affairs and Higher Education. Since my arrival at Wright State, I have been had the chance to experience many different aspects of student affairs at the collegiate level and have truly enjoyed every moment. Wright State has given me so many different opportunities to develop in a professional manner. Since my sophomore year, I have been a Resident Assistant for Residence Life & Housing and a member of the Raj Soin College of Business Dean’s Student Advisory Board, where I have been able to grow professionally and make great connections within the Wright State and local community. My hope is to one day be a part of an exceptional disability services program, such as Wright State’s, and help students with disabilities grow personally, academically, and assist them in their life goals.
What are some of the most innovative or beneficial services offered by the Office of Disability Services? How have those services helped you to succeed or excel as a student at Wright State?
The most innovative and beneficial service that the Office of Disability Services offers is the Personal Assistant Station (PA Station) located in the Student Union. This fully accessible restroom staffed throughout the day with Personal Assistants (PA’s) to assist students with disabilities with using the restroom, to changing clothes, taking off/putting on a jacket, to getting something out of their book bag, allow students to live independently throughout the day as opposed to having an aid by their side all day. This service has enabled me to go through my day as I please knowing if there is an emergency or I just need my drink opened there is someone available who is able to help.
Other services that I use include of the Technology Center, where I am able to receive my books for classes in an alternate format that is easier for me to utilize. Instead of carrying a heavy book around, I am able to take my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 around that has all by books and everything else that I need to be prepared for class. Also, the Test p Center enables me to take my class exams in a way that is easiest for me. It is difficult for me to bubble in answers [on a Scantron sheet], so they do it for me. They also have the capability for me to type out my responses or use my voice to write extended responses that would be physically draining if I had to do it by hand.