“She silently stepped out of the race that she never wanted to be in, found her own lane and proceeded to win." - Anonymous
Lately, quotes like the one above are providing Miramar College student Yuhan Liu with the motivation to follow her dreams. While Liu’s education and employment aspirations are relatively straightforward (complete her Business Administration associates program and obtain work in the same field), her journey toward these goals requires a custom-made route.
As a student with cerebral palsy, Liu must pace herself, taking no more than two courses per semester in order to maintain a great GPA.
“It may take other students an hour to complete an assignment, but for me it may take three or four,” she said.
In addition to building a sustainable schedule, Liu ensures a successful academic experience by connecting with professors before each semester begins to arrange all necessary accommodations. For so many students with disabilities, this proactive approach can make all the difference in navigating college life.
Still, certain assumptions persist in the classroom that are beyond Liu’s control.
“I would like staff and classmates to not underestimate me when they meet me for the first time,” she said. “It may look like I can’t do the assignment or participate in the class discussion, but in reality I can. It just takes a little more time.”
Driving Her Own Destiny
Liu noted that her ability to attend college is made possible through Miramar’s Disability Support Services and Programs (DSPS).
While DSPS indeed provides a strong support system to help reduce common education and employment barriers, Isabelle Martin, Liu’s DSPS counselor, gives her all the credit for driving her own destiny.
“She was still in high school and a few months away from graduation,” said Martin, recalling their first meeting in 2017. “She wanted to inquire about DSPS services and assess the differences between high school and college. That’s when I discovered that she takes school seriously and that she likes to be prepared to ensure her success.”
Initially, Martin assisted Liu by acting as the primary liaison between the student and her professors and helping create an individualized strategy for accommodations (particularly with test taking and classroom participation).
“I feel privileged that [she] trusted me to advocate on her behalf,” said Martin.
As Liu’s self-advocacy skills developed, she became more comfortable and confident articulating her needs with instructors, whom according to Martin, “have always had positive comments about her class participation.”
“Her positivity makes it easy to tackle any situations that come along the way,” said Martin. She is determined and a hard worker.”
A Trail Blazed
Liu’s hard work and determination reach beyond the classroom; she also utilizes these traits to gain relevant work experience in her desired career field.
“I did two internships with Upkey last year,” she said. “The first was all about different kinds of jobs and careers that are available in the business field. The second was mainly focused on marketing. I was able to do a few projects for Upkey during my two internships. I think I would take the leadership skills with me to my next place of employment.”
As Liu moves toward her degree and career, she is already putting those leadership skills to good use. In Spring 2021, she shared her perspective at Miramar’s Campus-wide Planning Summit as well as the District-wide DSPS Advisory Committee Meeting. These events rely on perspectives like Liu’s to ensure that DSPS shapes its programs around the lived experiences of the students it serves. In this capacity, Liu’s story is not just a reflection on her individual achievements, but a trail blazed for prospective students with disabilities to build brighter futures for themselves through higher education.