Amanda Urgolites has big plans for her future: she wants to teach pre-school children with autism. However, when her health condition worsened, she almost didn’t graduate, until staff and students at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College bought her a special motorized scooter.
“My disability doesn’t define me. I get to define my disability and I’m going to rise above this,” said Amanda, a student at the college.
Last year, she was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a progressive genetic disorder. Within a five-month span, she went from running, biking and hiking to needing a wheelchair.
“Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is something that causes the bones in my body to dislocate 30-60 times a day,” Amanda said. “It’s very painful.”
The pain became so bad it made going to class difficult. She couldn’t walk or push her own wheelchair. That’s when Amanda’s old professor, Dr. Russ Newman, knew he had to do something.
“I saw her and somebody had to do… it wasn’t fair. We always hear about good things happen to bad people, well let’s have some good things happen to a good person for a change,” said Dr. Newman, an assistant English professor.
He spoke with school officials and they raised about $1,000 to buy Amanda a motorized scooter.
“I can go outside and ride on the bike trails with my parents and I have a life again,” Amanda said.
She’s going to take a year off after she graduates Penn Highlands in May to manage her health. Then, she’s going to Clarion University to finish her degree in Early Childhood and Special Education.
Eventually, Amanda wants to open a faith-based community center for kids with disabilities.
“I see a lot of kids with disabilities and I have a disability now. For little ones and their parents, there’s not as much where they can go and get away from everything and have people who can understand them and relate. And that’s something I really want to create,” Amanda said.