When I think of the purple pleather booths, harsh LED lighting and sound of vending machines of the Rad Dish Co-op Cafe in Ritter Annex, I am filled with warmth and comfort. Although I am living at home in New York City now, when I lived on Main Campus, the Rad Dish Cafe was my home. It’s where most Disability Resources and Services student organization meetings I went to took place.
While DRS helped me get assistance from professors to accommodate difficulties I face with school work due to my attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, the office has played an important role helping me navigate college. It connected me with a community of students facing struggles like mine and taught me how to confidently talk about my disability and manage my time and assignments.
During my sophomore year, I joined Students Helping Others Understand Temple, a peer mentoring group made up of students registered with DRS that meets each month. It’s online now, but before the pandemic we gathered in person with pizza in the Rad Dish Cafe. After SHOUT meetings ended, we would stay in the cafe, talking out problems and exchanging advice until we had eaten or packed away the leftover food.
I was having an identity crisis that year and had been questioning my ability to successfully pursue a career in journalism with the high stakes of the industry and declining newsroom employment. In Fall 2018, I switched my major from journalism to undeclared.
Through SHOUT, I met upperclassmen also struggling with learning disabilities who were overcoming their challenges and achieving their academic and career goals. These students inspired me to follow my passion for journalism, switch back into the major and apply to Temple’s Honors Program, and they showed me that someone could get through the difficulties of college even with a learning disability.
As I talked with other students in SHOUT who struggled with ADHD, I realized they were facing the same challenges I was. I found I was not the only one who would lose focus on assignments every few minutes. What I was going through was somewhat normal. This helped me learn how to get over my internalized stigma against learning disabilities because I no longer felt like a burden talking to others about my struggles.
Throughout the pandemic, I have met with SHOUT members on Zoom for virtual study sessions. I couldn’t have worked through my remote classes without them. They reminded me that even while I was miles away from Main Campus, I still could connect with my community.
I can’t say “thank you” enough to the amazing DRS student service coordinators for counseling me through my time management crises and helping me figure out action plans when I was so overwhelmed I didn’t even know how to begin.
After feeling crushed by overlapping deadlines and exam dates my junior year, I ran to the Rad Dish Cafe for DRS drop-in hours, where student service coordinators answer students’ questions or help students find resources.
I felt overwhelmed and inadequate with tasks, and I cried as I explained this to a student services coordinator. I pressed my head to the pleather booth we sat at and faced away from the door, hoping no one I knew would walk through the cafe and see my mascara running down my face.
The student services coordinator helped me make a study plan and communicate with professors to ask for extensions. They reminded me that no matter what I was struggling with, I would be able to get through it as I had before. This visit to drop-in hours opened a door for me into a world of figuring out how to plan and manage my time. As I continued to meet with them, we talked about how to balance wellness with work and school. This has helped me manage the thin boundaries between virtual work at home and free time throughout the pandemic.
As I prepare to walk across the stage at the Klein College of Media and Communication’s commencement ceremony on May 6 and begin my first full-time journalism job, I’ll remind myself of what DRS has taught me and affirmed to me: that I can get through the challenges I face.