Nebraska’s Amori Strong is not one to be denied.
Having lived with cerebral palsy and confined to a wheelchair for the majority of her life, Strong first came to Nebraska to visit a friend. She recalls sitting on a balcony, looking out across the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and seeing the signature “N” on Memorial Stadium.
“Too often, there’s this belief that people with disabilities can’t go to college, or at best can only attend classes at a community college,” Strong said. “We were on that balcony and I asked my friend if she thought I could get into a major university like this. She turned and asked me why I would ever think I couldn’t.
“At that point, I knew I was going to be a Cornhusker and earn a degree.”
She applied and was accepted in 2016, transferring from Troy University in her home state of Alabama. While the journey has not been easy — peppered with day-to-day wheelchair hurdles like table height and elevator access, alongside a recent and necessary move to California — the psychology major is on path to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts.
Strong and her friends are raising funds to cover expenses to attend Nebraska commencement exercises in Pinnacle Bank Arena on Aug. 17. While an indomitable will was key, Strong credits Nebraska’s flexible student support systems, faculty assistance and student advising programs for her success.
“There were definitely moments when I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it,” Strong said. “But, there was always someone there to give encouragement or someone who went above and beyond to help me out. That extra support — especially from Mike Dodd, Cal Garbin and my adviser, Joanna Seley — is what really got me through.”
Strong said Dodd and Seley were, “there from day one,” helping work through issues. And, Garbin came into the picture as Strong was finishing a psychology capstone course.
Strong was in the middle of the course (Psychology 350) when she had to make the difficult decision to move to California to receive necessary medical and quality-of-life services not available in Nebraska. Garbin adjusted the statistics and research methods course, making it accessible to Strong remotely.
“Having to choose moving to California for better quality of life over staying in Nebraska and finishing my education was hard. I worried it would keep me from completing my degree,” Strong said. “I was lucky that Professor Garbin was willing to work with me remotely and via email.
“That flexibility made graduation possible.”
Strong plans to savor the degree (hopefully in person) before embarking on a few months of self-care followed by pursuit of a master’s degree.
“Ultimately, I hope to take all the things I’ve gone through in my life and use my unique perspective to become a therapist who specializes in working with people with disabilities,” Strong said. “I’m also considering law school and focusing on laws that impact people with disabilities.
“It feels like this degree is the beginning of a new life for me.”