Javon Stovall Disability Graduation 2020 award

From Javon:

I have been a student at the University of Iowa since the fall of 2014, and what a ride it has been! I began doing diversity work when I realized that members of my student organizations didn't have what they needed to succeed inside or outside the classroom. I was simultaneously working for student legal services, so I knew there had to be resources out there. I began referring students to SDS - but didn't necessarily believe I deserved the help of the office for myself. Finally, after getting in touch with some people in the dean's office who insisted I advocate for myself, I found myself sitting in Vicki Houser's office, crying about how much my epilepsy had affected my time in college and being absolutely shocked at just how much accommodations could help.

Since then, I've made it my life's mission to engage in diversity work, especially after taking courses like multiculturalism and doing projects like Alternative Spring Break. Every single day is a struggle for students that have a hard time finding a community, and we know college students can't thrive if they don't have the community and support they need. But what does going above and beyond look like? For me, it's three-fold. First, the work is internal - working to educate myself about the experiences of others, and change my language and practices to be as inclusive as possible. This includes me planning events as an RA and student org leader, and sharing what I've learned with my peers. Second, is activism. I've been involved in some of the contentious efforts to boost the abilities of SDS in really actively engaging in a student success model.

This activism work became my lifeblood. I was all in - going to meetings, brainstorming ideas, supporting my friends, working for change, but simultaneously going through my own therapeutic experience and noticing the toll this work was taking on my closest friends and their mental health really made me take my work to the next step. For me, the third area of my work has been to focus my efforts. Create the change I've wanted to see and work to change attitudes, hearts, and minds. Educate my residents on what it means to be disabled, and imagine futures where the world is accessible to all.

I'm graduating from Iowa to go to graduate school in higher education administration at Florida International University, where I'll work as a graduate assistant in LGBTQA Initiatives. I'm excited because I also plan on doing a practicum experience in their disability resource center. My drive comes from the belief that we are called to make the world a better place - or in our case, institutions of higher education better. They say college isn't for everyone.

But it could be.

Acknowledgements

My parents, My sister, Kaydee Ecker, Andrea Courtney, everyone at SDS, and everyone in UISDAA