Attending college with a disability has been difficult but rewarding

BioNews Staff avatar

by BioNews Staff |

Share this article:

Share article via email
SMA community spotlight banner.
A woman wearing a pink butterfly dress smiles while sitting in her wheelchair. She appears to be outside on the patio of her home.

Jasmine Ramos embraces life with SMA. (Photos courtesy of Jasmine Ramos)

This is Jasmine Ramos’ story:

I was born in New York City on Aug. 10, 1995. I lived in the Bronx with my parents and two older sisters until I was 2. We moved to Manhattan shortly after one of my sisters passed away from spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) when she was 5.

I resided in Manhattan with my family for 22 years before we decided to move again — this time to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where I have lived for the past five and a half years. I have a total of four siblings and three nieces.

My diagnosis of SMA type 1 was confirmed when I was 6 months old, but somewhere down the line, my neurologist reconfirmed that I had type 1, despite being borderline type 2. According to doctors, I wasn’t supposed to live past age 5. They also told my parents that I would never speak or eat by mouth. Surprise! I do all those things and more.

A woman reclines against fuzzy pillows and blankets while working on schoolwork. She's wearing a sweater and has a pink tablet on her lap.

Ramos at school.

I am a first-generation college student. When I first applied to my local community college, I started as a psychology major but then switched to social services.

Attending college and working toward a career with a disability like SMA can be difficult and exhausting, but it’s also empowering and liberating. It has given my life so much more purpose.

I was granted the opportunity to get my first job as a student employee for the tutoring department and work conveniently from home, which has been my source of employment for the last two years. Through hard work, perseverance, and dedication, I eventually got invited to join the international honor society Phi Theta Kappa, where I now serve as the vice president of scholarship. I have also been granted the position of vice president of student concerns and belonging at my community college. Both titles have made my academic journey so much more fulfilling.

A woman in a white graduation gown and cap poses for a photo while seated in her wheelchair.

Ramos graduates from high school.

I will graduate with my associate degree this December after four long years. But my education won’t stop there. My ultimate goal is to become a licensed clinical social worker, dedicating my job to the disability community. I have always been passionate about helping others, which has been my driving force to continue my education.

Besides school, work, and Phi Theta Kappa, I also enjoy volunteering in my community. Currently, I volunteer weekly for a hospice center doing administrative tasks, such as making newsletters and birthday cards. I know that becoming more involved in my community and being able to offer services will benefit both me and others.

In recognition of Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month in August, the SMA Community Spotlight campaign features a series of stories highlighting the real-life experiences of people affected by SMA, written in their own words. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #SMASpotlight, or read the full series.