From #includemeincollege to #vandysnewestfreshman...

So, here's a question I'm getting a lot .. how did that happen?

For those of you that are joining the party a little late - I have it all laid out in the #includemeincollege series, but because well - I'm me and I want everyone else to benefit from our knowledge, experience and journey so I'm going to retrace our steps in the sub-series #vandysnewestfreshman!

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You're Welcome!

From the moment Chloe came home and announced her intentions it's been nothing but a whirlwind! The planning and prep and meetings and research (and more meetings). I'm starting to wonder how I did it. Oh yeah, that's right! Chloe did the work - I just cheered from the sidelines and removed barriers to her dream.  

Because really, that all this whole thing is about, isn't it? Barriers. But I'll get back to that in a minute... 

So I'm guessing you're reading this because you're curious - just how did Chloe achieve that goal? I could say a cross between sheer iron will, research and luck and maybe I'd be close to accurate. But the truth is you can't measure someone's will. You never really actually know what another person of any ability will or won't achieve until you give them an opportunity to achieve it. That's illogical, right?  

So, back to the barriers...all that prevents anyone really from doing anything is a barrier. If you want to get from point a to point b and there's an ocean in the middle - well, you say it can't be done or you swim or float or find a boat! Either way the ocean in this scenario is for all intents and purposes -- yep -- a barrier.  

So, when the school said that Chloe "wouldn't necessarily be able to attend college with her peers" I asked one question (and it drove them nuts): WHY? I mean SHE has been involved in her IEP meetings since the age of 14 and SHE is saying that her end game is college acceptance, so why roll out the barriers that prevent it? I don't remember exactly what their response was, but I do remember saying that I don't understand a high school that's choosing to fail a student. I went on to say that if her goal, her dream is college acceptance - they should be encouraging her instead of continuing recommend programming that is below her skill set and doesn't allow her to grow socially and I offered to contact the State Board of Education for their opinion. The reaction was quick, AND it was a game changer. I didn't yell, cry or scream I just made my point, threw in an idle threat and just like that -- course access was granted, with the needed accommodations and modifications, with few exceptions. 

Quite frankly I have many questions like these and I find that there is still, in 2017 a stigma and a presumption of incompetence among the population of those identified as having a disability. I freely admit that I'm not an expert any more than I'm an activist. (If I have to class myself as anything, I'd use the word humanitarian actually). Nonetheless, there is no magic in what Chloe achieved only that she was afforded the chance to try...and ultimately succeeded. 

When we began this journey I spent many hours researching exactly what her options might be and then - wait for it - I asked HER what her preferences were. I invited HER to make the decisions about which colleges SHE wanted to visit. It's all pretty simple and pretty average isn't it?

Our trip to PreVU day afforded me the opportunity to really figure out what colleges are looking for in their applications. They look at academics. They look at athletics. They look at extracurriculars. Pretty standard areas. In the world of special education at the collegiate level I notice that they look at daily living skills and work experiences. As I sat there and listened, taking notes and writing down key dates IT hit me. Chloe REALLY WAS a well-rounded applicant. She may actually have a shot at getting into some of these programs! 

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So I did what any half-crazed, overly-caffeinated and bound and determined Momma Bear  in my position would do - went over the pros and cons and asked Chloe to rank her options. It was clear from the beginning that Chloe loved Vandy. From day ONE. And, who wouldn't? The cute star, the cool scene in Nashville (or NashVegas as I've also heard it called), a stellar coach and an endless supply of opportunities! (Not that it couldn't be created in any of the towns we visited!) It stole the #1 spot quickly and as Chloe set her sights on early admission into Vandy, I began figuring out how we'd make it work. 

This process is over for us. Yep, we've made through yet another transition - well, almost. But I have to be honest and say how very much it's changed me. I have met some of the most amazing people and I know that Chloe's story - #includemeincollege has helped further discussions about access to higher education, removal of barriers and the creation of a career rather than landing a job. So, I've made a decision...I'm going to keep pushing, keep educating and keep helping to further this message in any way that I am able. 

When we settle down in Nashville I am going to incorporate this cause into a non-profit organization dedicated to serving those who need help in achieving their dreams. That said, I welcome and encourage any comments, suggestions and ideas. This is very unfamiliar territory for me and I'm nervous, but I know in my heart and in my gut it's the right action to take.  

So here's to new beginnings, all that fun we're about to have in Nashville and last but not least, #vandysnewestfreshman 🌟

My little cowgirl - I think Smashville/NashVegas will suit her just fine, don't you?  

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