Disability in Action Month Well-Received by Campus Community

Educational Access and Disability Resources, Unified Club, and Student Life hosted successful events

October was National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). This year’s theme was “Advancing Access and Equity.” Educational Access and Disability ResourcesUnified Club, and Student Life celebrated Disability in Action Month by hosting a series of events on the Dakota County Technical College campus in Rosemount, Minnesota. The Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging, and Justice and Student Affairs also supported Disability in Action Month.

Melissa Fletcher

“We were thrilled to see so many DCTC community members participate in all the Disability in Action events,” said Melissa Fletcher, the college’s educational access and disability resources director. “The goal of events like these is not really ‘awareness,’ but rather to create space and discussion, honor identity, and establish foundational pieces that will continue in the future. The most impactful moments for me were from the student panel, where students shared their experiences in open and thoughtful ways. This will certainly continue in the future with hopefully even more community involvement!”

Director Fletcher reported that more than 200 students attended the three different Disability in Action Month events:

  • Sensory Friendly Puzzles & Pizza
  • Progress Through Inclusion Panel
  • Crip Camp movie showing

“Students with disabilities who participated in the events shared they felt included and welcome,” she said. “They were happy to see the support from campus leaders at the events.”

Student panelists

Michael Berndt, president of DCTC and Inver Hills Community College, commended the positive impact created by Disability in Action Month participants.

“I attended the Progress Through Inclusion: Disabilities in Action Panel, and I was blown away by our student panelists,” President Berndt said. “They were generous in sharing their stories, and incredibly supportive of one another. They exemplified what an inclusive, welcoming community can be.”

Anne Johnson, the college’s vice president of student affairs, shares President Berndt’s commitment to equity, inclusion, and belonging on campus.

“The events during Disability in Action Month were a huge success,” Vice President Johnson said. “Approximately two hundred students participated, which is outstanding! Many people were involved in planning and implementing the activities. Thank you to the planners, organizers, and participants.”

Sensory Friendly Puzzles & Pizza

Vice President Johnson added that the campus community needs to continue acknowledging and uplifting people with disabilities.

“We need to make sure we are inclusive of such gifted individuals in our daily lives,” she said. “I am hopeful we each take time to gain an appreciation and deeper understanding of those who have disabilities, that we take time to listen to their journey and show acceptance and respect. Again, a shoutout to everyone who was instrumental in helping the campus community become more aware of disabilities and challenges that come with them. I look forward to further activities and discussions.”

Jeremy Clark serves as the campus diversity officer at both DCTC and Inver Hills. He heads the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging, and Justice.

“It was great to see the full list of offerings for our campus community,” he said. “The events brought awareness, education, and inclusion to our campus. I enjoyed hearing directly from students and members of the community about their experiences and learning about ways we can best support one another.”

Jeremy added that his hat goes off to all who shared their stories, attended an event, and helped organize the month’s activities.

“Disability in Action Month at DCTC did a great job contesting the stigma around disability through universal design, uplifting student voices, and celebrating diversity,” he said.

Student perspectives…

Kenze Laws

Kenze Laws

Age: 22
Hometown: River Falls, Wisconsin
Major and degree earning at DCTC: Individualized Studies A.S.
Extracurricular activities at DCTC: Student ambassador, Student Senate, MSLA president,
Transfer plans: Attend four-year school to study international relations
Career plans: Own and operate an international business

“Not all disabilities are visible. I’m honored to be a part of this project to provide awareness for all disabilities at DCTC!”

Natasha Grad

Natasha Grad

Age: 29
Hometown: Eagan, Minnesota
Major and degree earning at DCTC: Completed Professional Photography A.A.S. and Small Business Entrepreneur certificate. Completing Digital Marketing Specialist A.A.S. with plans to graduate spring 2024.
Extracurricular activities at DCTC: Student Senate campus liaison, Rotaract Club president, Phi Theta Kappa social media manager, BPA Minnesota State Chapter executive board member, Student ambassador, DCTC Alumni Board member
Transfer plans: Plans on taking a short break on her education with the goal to earn a bachelor’s degree at a Minnesota State college in the future.
Career plans: Become an entrepreneur and start her own photography business

“Raising awareness on the DCTC campus about disabilities during Disability in Action Month holds immense significance. I am honored to have been able to participate in such an impactful and influential movement on campus. I hope that my actions of vulnerability allow meaningful change to happen within the DCTC community and beyond.”

Ali Hassan

Ali Hassan

Age: 22
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Major and degree earning at DCTC: Exercise & Sport Science A.A.S.
Extracurricular activities at DCTC: Student ambassador, Student Senate, Unified Club, Rotaract Club
Transfer plans: N/A
Career plans: Become a health and fitness director

“Disability is just a different ability.”

Bethany Mejia-Elias

Bethany Mejia-Elias

Age: 22
Hometown: Sterling, Virginia
Major and degree earning at DCTC: Individualized Studies A.S.
Extracurricular activities at DCTC: Student Senate secretary, student ambassador, Rotaract Club—”I really enjoy volunteering!”
Transfer plans: St. Mary’s University of Minnesota spring 2024 to work toward becoming a licensed therapist and then a psychologist
Career plans: Become a psychologist and work with children or young adults
“I hope to inspire other students to advocate for themselves and share their story. I hope I planted a seed that disability goes beyond physical limitations, but also mental limitations.”

View the Progress Through Inclusion: Disabilities in Action Panel album on DCTC Flickr:
Learn more about Educational Access and Disability Resources at DCTC by contacting:

Melissa Fletcher, MA
Educational Access and Disability Resources Director
Dakota County Technical College
MN Relay 7-1-1