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During my sophomore year at Syracuse University, I noticed many facets of my identity that I had no choice but to quarrel with on a daily basis, especially as a Black woman with a learning disability at a predominately white institution. While there are many others with similar identities, I often feel isolated, as many of the resources at SU are centered around the white majority or not promoted to students of color.
When I first arrived on campus, my main focus was to learn how to navigate and thrive in such a large school. I soon realized that being a woman of color with a learning disability was going to be the main obstacle I would have to overcome.
I started my academic journey as a pre-med student studying neuroscience and psychology and found myself struggling to manage my time and quickly understand the material. I often felt like I was drowning in work and lacked comprehension and it made me feel like I wasn’t in the right field. PWIs are already isolating places for Black students, but those with the additional load of having learning disabilities are further disadvantaged.
A majority of the resources created to accommodate those with learning disabilities are geared toward white students who have knowledge about testing centers and the means to pay for these resources. Moreover, the numerous cognitive tests and the time that it takes to obtain benefits is a huge hindrance for many, as it can take months to a year to schedule and receive services.
Summer Green, Class of 2025
While these programs are not created with a racial intent, they don’t recognize the extra support that I and many Black students need. This can be mitigated by assigning a specific advisor that gives extra support to Black and other students of color, which creates a supportive network for us.
Learning disabilities are common in communities of color, so many of us are still trying to get the help we need. I’m often the only Black woman in the Center for Disability Resources for testing, which can be alienating. These resources are helpful and allow many people a chance to succeed academically, which is why it’s so important that Black students can equally access them.
Throughout this semester, I’ve learned how to navigate my identity by reaching out to other students like me to create a supportive network that allows me and others to share ways to be academically successful when it feels impossible. At many times, it feels like institutions are created to impede Black students from succeeding and leave us feeling alone on our academic journey.
The way I’ve been able to achieve my academic goals this year is by using my voice as my biggest advocate. Black students can meet with other people with learning disabilities to spread knowledge about the resources and help they’re receiving. Through this, I’ve changed my career path and goals and continue to learn how to help others and give those who need extra help and more support.
In the absence of the school’s support for those like myself with intersecting identities, Black students can use our community to uplift and advocate for ourselves. Allowing us to foster an inclusive academic environment for everyone.
Summer Green, Class of 2025
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