KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — For the first time ever, women with disabilities were included in sorority recruitment at the University of Tennessee, and the video has gone viral. UT sophomores Zoe Messer, 20, and Faith Irwin, 21, and senior Elise McDaniel, 24, are a part of the “Future” Postsecondary Education Program.
The program helps young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities transition from high school to adult life. While students in the program are in college, mentors with the Future Program, made sure they have every opportunity available to them, including going through a sorority rush.
Faith Irwin said she has big plans for the future, “I want to be a veterinary assistant so I’m taking animal science classes.”
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She stays pretty busy on campus by taking classes like soccer, swim, and American Sign Language. “I like to walk around campus, go to games with my friends, and just hang out with my friends on campus,” she said.
Now she’s one of three young women with disabilities who gained over a thousand new sisters by rushing. Both Faith Irwin and Elise McDaniel are part of UTK’s FUTURE Postsecondary Education Program.
“We want to open every door for our girls and our guys and every student with disabilities in general,” said Future Outreach Coordinator Amber Carmody.
For Elise, whos a senior at UT, this meant finding an organization where she felt she belonged. “Because it’s my last year, I wanted the experience and I wanted to make new friends,” she explained.
The future program worked diligently to make sure she would have an equal opportunity to join a sorority. “This wasn’t the norm,” said Carmody. “They weren’t allowed to before this. We had to put in a year’s worth of work for them to be able to do this.”
The hard work paid off for all three young ladies who participated, “I got a bid,” said Elise with a smile.
For Elise, the excitement was overwhelming. A Tick Tock video of the ladies receiving their bid, posted by Carmody. went viral.
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“I just get emotional thinking about it,” said Carmody. “So many doors are closed for them that we are constantly trying to open, so just seeing a door finally open was just very exciting.”
Faith Irwin said she wants other girls like her to get the same experience, “I say just go for it. You would like it and try new things.”
Now, the University of Tennessee is making the future a little brighter for other young women with disabilities. UTK’s FUTURE Postsecondary Education Program was created in 2011.
A few mentors for the program are also in sororities. They’re the ones who came up with the idea and helped to make this all possible.