Speaking Up and Making Change: Madison’s Story
It can be hard to have a disability and make friends at school. In high school, I was involved with Washington Hebrew Congregation and loved being a leader in my Jewish community. So when I was searching for a way to form a community for myself at George Mason University, I went to see what was happening at Hillel.
Joining Hillel gave me a sense of family on campus and I met great people there who became my friends. My Hillel family gave me a space to explore my Jewish identity and inspired me to get involved in other leadership opportunities.
When I arrived on campus, I was shocked to learn that George Mason LIFE students (students who participate in a four-year program for people with disabilities) were not eligible to serve as full members of the student government. I was determined to change that for myself and other students who were passionate about leadership. Madison’s Bill, a piece of legislation that I introduced, allowed students with disabilities to join the student government.
I took the first step by winning a student senate seat to represent the voices of marginalized students like returning education students, international students, and students with disabilities.
Across campus, there continued to be opportunities for me to speak up for inclusion. From making Greek life more inclusive to advocating for kosher dining on campus to changing how George Mason defines their enrolled students with disabilities, I spoke up and my Hillel family was with me every step of the way.
I became only the fifth person in the United States with Down’s Syndrome to graduate from a four-year college. I hope my journey and the work I did as a student and beyond inspire others to speak up and make space in their lives for inclusive change.