Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Taking On College: Part of the Journey

Today on the blog we have two stories from our CCA Alums & Adults committee. Growing up with a facial difference often involves a lot of talking about yourself: Introductions... answering questions... explanations... and as we move into college and career, sometimes that means giving interviews, too.

As both Joe Brooks and Casey Deakins can express, there are good days and bad days but in the end, we only increase awareness and acceptance by making connections with others. And that is just what these two CCA Alums are doing well!

Today we're proud to feature a reblog from The Blue & Gray Press, The University of Mary Washington's student newspaper where Joe Brooks is a student -and- a personal graduation essay from Casey Deakins, who just graduated from The University of Central Florida. Enjoy these stories and if you're interested in joining the CCA Alums & Adults, contact us on Facebook.



“My face looks like this. It doesn’t mean I’m any different from you. I have Otopalatodigital syndrome, a craniofacial disorder.”

When Joe Brooks, a junior music major at the University of Mary Washington, contacted me, I was unfamiliar with this syndrome and disorder. Joe handed me a pamphlet from the Children’s Craniofacial Association (CCA) and advised that I read it. Reaching out to the Humans of UMW community is part of Joe’s effort to inform us that September is Craniofacial Acceptance Month.

Craniofacial conditions vary, the most common being cleft lip and palate. You may be thinking, “Acceptance, sure. That’s easy.” But do you, reader, actually practice this?

Acceptance is more than the quick smile you formulate when you pass a person with craniofacial differences. Acceptance is recognizing an individual’s qualities without the motive to change them. CCA’s message of acceptance is that “beyond the face is a heart.”

When asked if he had faced a lack of acceptance at UMW, Joe replied, “Not on campus, no. It was in middle and elementary school when I did not feel accepted.”

However, Joe’s sentiment changed when he began to attend Cher’s Annual Family Retreat.

“I got this shirt in Arizona at the retreat. Children who have different craniofacial syndromes come together and are reminded that we are not alone, that we all have similar stories,” Joe said.

These stories are centered around the many surgeries that individuals with craniofacial disorders undergo. In 2009, Joe had a surgery that kept him in the hospital for three months.

At the close of the interview, I asked Joe a spotlight question traditional to Humans of UMW.

What is a metaphor for your life?

“My life is climbing mountains with rough terrain. I’ve had to climb different obstacles to get to where I am today. I’ve had to overcome the mountain of surgeries, the mountain of recovery, the mountain of proving to people that I can do things that they can do and the mountain of overcoming my own challenges.”

What mountain are you climbing now, and have you reached the top? If not, when will you?

“The mountain of graduating. I’m not on top yet, but I’m climbing.”


In late 2008, I was sitting in a meeting with my dad, listening to a local college essentially tell me I wouldn’t be able to graduate college. That night, after the meeting, I wiped away the tears of frustration, and told my reflection in the mirror, “I’ll show them.”

On August 8th, 2015, a little later than anticipated, I crossed the stage of the “Dungeon,” aka, the University of Central Florida CFE Arena and received my Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Administration with a focus and professional certificate in Nonprofit Management.

A ten year long journey finally came to a close. On my journey, there were tears, frustration, and countless amounts of money spent on textbooks (...still trying to figure out that one but I’ll leave that story for another day!). But most importantly, I had support. Support of friends, of family, and my faith. They kept the little voice inside me going, the one that said, “I think I can, I think I can!” like the little engine from the children’s story. I would have given up in 2008 if it wasn’t for this support.

If I were to give a piece of advice, I would say to believe in yourself, and surround yourself with those that believe in you. They will drown out the ones that say you can’t. And, to the world, I say this….you ain’t seen nothing yet!
- Casey


Congrats to these two and thank you for sharing your stories during #CAM2015!

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