I made the community better
By Michael Buono
I have always wanted to help my community, to do my part to make the community better. As a student with a disability, I don’t always get those opportunities. I finally got the chance to do this through the University of Delaware’s Alternative Spring Break Program, called UDaB, a program for UD students to serve communities across the country. During my trip, I lived with 21 other students for the week, sleeping in a church in Philadelphia and creating an urban garden. This was the first time that someone from UD’s certificate program for students with intellectual disabilities was able to join in the UDaB experience.
UDaB was different than any other club I’ve been a part of, because at UDaB I wasn’t there as a student with a disability. I was just there as a UD student who wanted to help out and have fun! I liked that I was never treated differently because of my disability. I had to go through the application and interview process and be chosen just like everyone else. I had coaches that supported me with the application, but I didn’t need or want a coach to go with me on the trip. That would have made me feel different, like I was being treated special, which I didn’t want. I would sometimes get support from the site leaders, upper level students who were leaders who had done these trips before. They were the people everyone went to for support, so it didn’t stand out that they supported me too.
I was nervous at first because I had never gone away for this long without my family or having special support. I wasn’t sure if I would get along with the other students. But working together with other UD students, all of us wanting to help this community, it helped us feel really close. I became friends with lots of students on my trip – now I know so many more people on campus! Since the trip has ended, I’ve stayed in touch with my friends. I’ve been invited to hang out at my friends’ apartments, have lunch with them, and I also went out for someone’s 21st birthday. I enjoy hanging out with them because I feel included. They don’t have to invite me out. We’re not on a trip together anymore. But they choose to ask me to do these things because we had the chance to get to know each other during UDaB. That hasn’t happened from my other clubs.
I think some people may have thought that people with disabilities wouldn’t be capable of doing this trip because they may look or act differently than people without disabilities. But I proved them wrong. I’m proud of what I accomplished! I think there should more trips and opportunities like UDaB that allow people with disabilities like me to participate. It’s a great way to connect with others and form friendships. My trip with UDaB was one of my best college experiences and will be something that I remember for a long time.