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Rachel Faulkner

1225

Bold Points

6x

Nominee

1x

Finalist

Bio

My name is Rachel and I am passionate about disability advocacy. As a disabled teen, I find the issues that disabled people face to be something that I want to help solve. My life goal is to become a policy lawyer and analyst to help businesses become more accessible to everybody no matter what their ability level is.

Education

North Catholic High School

High School
2021 - 2023

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Doctoral degree program (PhD, MD, JD, etc.)

  • Majors of interest:

    • Political Science and Government
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Law Practice

    • Dream career goals:

      Sports

      Dancing

      Varsity
      2007 – Present17 years

      Awards

      • 2 time National Competitior
      • 1 time National Top Ten
      • National Title Top Ten

      Arts

      • Dancexplosion Arts Center

        Dance
        13 yearly recitals
        2010 – Present

      Public services

      • Advocacy

        Tourette Association of America — Youth Ambassador
        2019 – Present

      Future Interests

      Advocacy

      Politics

      Volunteering

      Philanthropy

      Novitas Diverse Voices Scholarship
      As a queer, disabled woman, I know all too well how the voices of minorities can be silenced. Throughout my life, I have felt the consequences of silencing of disabled voices within many aspects of my life. If disabled people were listened to, we would not have to fight every day for basic access into all public spaces. Inaccessibility is a major issue all over the United States and the world. Historical sights which have turned into government and public spaces often did not have to be renovated in order to accommodate the new laws. However, this leads to people who use mobility aids being unable to safely, or entirely go into these areas. Because this is the case for many local and state government buildings, many disabled people cannot access open hall or town hall meetings which are about issues that directly effects them. Not being able to humanize these issues makes it far less likely that anything will be done to fix them. Another issue that is caused by the lack of disabled voices is discrimination, bullying, and by standing. Because of the lack of disabled voices within education, children do not understand how to interact with their disabled peers. This leads to an overall feeling of ostracization from their classmates as early as elementary school. If disabled stories were included in early education, it could allow the stigma to be released around disabled children and foster friendships and inclusion from an early age. This leads to inclusive, understanding adults. However, stares and comments are all to common from adults who should "know better", except, why should they if they do not frequently hear from disabled creators, writers, and speakers? Disabled creators are often muted from social media platforms, as they do not fit the overall image which they are looking for. This in turn leads to disabled people being further differentiated from able-bodied members of their communities because they are seen as different. If these platforms would instead lift up disabled creators, it could lead to a greater sense of understanding, and less stares, when seeing disabled people just living their lives, because they would be seen as normal, not different. Even when people hear disabled voices, sometimes they do not listen. I hope that through more and more disabled people being highlighted through media channels, a greater path to listen and conversations can be achieved to bridge the gap between disabled and able-bodied people.
      Gabriel Martin Memorial Annual Scholarship
      When I turned 14, I was diagnosed with a genetic disease which causes progressive connective tissue deterioration. Over the next year, I progressed to the point where I couldn’t stand on my own, so I was put in a wheelchair. Ever since the first time I went out in public in my wheelchair, I have been unable to escape the stares, comments, and questions from strangers. Some people give the respectful, “what happened”, however, most of the time people come up to me and start praying or asking about recovery. And, yet after they asked, they are never satisfied with the truth. I will never “get better”. In addition to being in a wheelchair. My disease has caused my stomach and intestine to become paralyzed. Two small tubes made of plastic keep me alive every night. When I got the surgery to receive these tubes, I often got told that I was “one of the strongest people” someone knew. But I do not feel strong. Frequently, strength is thrust upon disabled people. This furthers the “gap” between able bodied and disabled people because it perpetuates that we are always happy, perseverant, and “strong”. This, however, is not true. I get sad. Quite frequently, I find myself mourning my old life and my old, unscarred body. Whenever I try to speak out about the darker times in being disabled, the response from people is often confusion, because they view me as a pillar of strength instead of a human with emotions. When I first started to get sick, I frequently caught myself trying to hide my emotions to not let people down. I now realize that by doing this, I was furthering the assumptions that I was always this strong person. Today, I know that being myself and showing my authentic emotions not only allows me to be me, but it helps others who see me in a vulnerable state to know that other disabled people also have the same emotions that they do. Another attribute I get associated with is bravery. And while I wish I could feel this, I do not. Bravery makes me feel as though I am doing something above and beyond in the face of danger. I am simply living my life. And I do acknowledge that I go through some challenges that others will not, but everybody goes through challenges. And, getting through “normal” human challenges does not make them brave, it makes them human. My challenges are no different. I am simply doing what I need to do to stay alive. Which unfortunately for me, comes with a lot more surgeries and procedures than a lot of people. Everyone has difficulties, but getting through them is life, not bravery. I do know that whenever people say things like these to me, they are coming from a place of love and care. The hard part for me, is that it makes me feel like I am failing if I do not feel the same way about myself. I have grown a lot from the 14-year-old girl I was when I was diagnosed. I am more open about how I feel, and how the things people say to me affect me. I might be disabled, but I will never let it stop me. I will never let my illness define me as a person. Because I am more than my wheelchair. And, I might not be an inspiration, but I am a smart, accomplished person. That is what will define me.
      Joieful Connections Scholarship
      My goal in life is to help other people. I know, broad. My goal is to become a policy lawyer, and make change for accessibility for all people to have the same opportunities available to them. As a person in a wheelchair, the first barrier I face is physical. I cannot access every space. This immediately removes me from opportunities I cannot access. The second barrier I face is the stigma around disability. People do not expect me to be able to have the same cognitive abilities solely because I am in a wheelchair. I experience people all too frequently talking to my parent or friend instead of at me. People feel uncomfortable looking at me during a conversation, but never too uncomfortable to stare when I roll away. I want to create a world where people, regardless of ability level, have the dual access and opportunity to anything they want to do. To do this, I am planning on attending Stetson University to study Political Science on a pre-law track. After my undergraduate, I plan to go to law school to earn a JD and an LLM in advocacy. I want to be a voice for people who have not been heard. Disabled representation is far too low in all aspects of the career world. Even one person making an impression can make an impact, and that is what I intend to do. Beyond law school, I hope to become a policy lawyer to help businesses create a space where all people are welcome under the ADA, and beyond. I have seen first hand that the ADA does not cover everything to make the United States accountable for inaccessibility, which is something else I would dream of doing. I would love to continue to improve local, state, and federal laws surrounding structure and transportation to more widely include people in wheelchairs, and people with other disabilities which too often exclude them from participation. I plan to additionally help to promote disability and diversity education within schools so that when disabled people receive the inclusion they deserve, it does not come at a cost to their mental health. Too often, children and adults are made fun of, bullied, excluded, stared at, or otherwise ostracized from their peers or community members. I hope if inclusion and education around disability is started earlier, it can alleviate more of these issues coming into adulthood, therefore leading to less disability discrimination.
      Elijah's Helping Hand Scholarship Award
      As a queer, disabled young woman, the unique experiences these aspects of my life give me have shaped me as a person. Beyond the physical barriers of inaccessibility, mental barriers of internalized homophobia and depression caused struggles in my life. I knew I was queer from a very young age, but I did not know how to communicate this to the world around me. When heteronormativity is what the world expects of you, you conform. I did. I feel very appreciative to have an accepting, loving mother who would do anything to protect me. However, I have had less than support from a lot of family members and other people involved in my life. When first coming out, I was 13 years old. This was met with constant cries that I would "grow out of it" or that I "hadn't found the right man yet". The constant noise of these comments made me believe that they were true. I pushed down my feelings into a place that I wouldn't touch. I was straight. I was normal. This all came crashing down into a spiral of depression. I was out on medication after medication to make me feel better. But nothing worked. I went into therapy, but I was so far into denial I couldn't imagine telling my own therapist, a person I should trust, about my own sexuality. I tried to date and fit in with all of my friends. It just never felt right. I knew it wasn't right. When I got to high school, being part of the LGBT community was more talked about. One of my closest friends came out at a birthday sleepover, which turned into a few of us all sharing our feelings into the group in the earliest hours of the day. I will remember this moment forever. I felt accepted. All of the friends that I had at this party were beyond accepting. There's were not stares or comments invalidating our feelings. Just the talk of teenage girls raving about our celebrity crushes, no matter what gender they were. Though this seems like a small, inconsequential moment in my life, it meant so much more to me. Today, I know that I will face people who will not agree with me, and who do not want to understand. But, I know that past the discrimination is my happiness, and I won't sacrifice that for anything again.
      Will Johnson Scholarship
      I am not an inspiration. I am just another human being. I am not strong, or at least I am not stronger than anyone else. I am not brave for simply going through my life. But all these attributes have been put on me because I am in a wheelchair, because I have feeding tubes, and because I have a terminal illness. When I turned 14, I was diagnosed with a genetic disease which causes progressive connective tissue deterioration. Over the next year, I progressed to the point where I couldn’t stand on my own. Ever since the first time I went out in public in my wheelchair, I have been unable to escape the stares, comments, and questions from strangers. Some people give the respectful, “what happened”, however, people come up to me and start praying or asking about recovery. And, yet after they asked, they are never satisfied with the truth. I will never “get better”. In addition to being in a wheelchair. My disease has caused my GI system is paralyzed. Two small tubes made of plastic keep me alive every night. When I got the surgery to receive these tubes, I often got told that I was “one of the strongest people” someone knew. But I do not feel strong. Frequently, strength is thrust upon disabled people. This furthers the “gap” between able bodied and disabled people because it perpetuates that we are always happy, perseverant, and “strong”. This is not true. Quite frequently, I find myself mourning my old life and my old, unscarred body. Whenever I try to speak out about the darker times in being disabled, the response from people is often confusion, because they view me as a pillar of strength instead of a human with emotions. When I first started to get sick, I frequently caught myself trying to hide my emotions to not let people down. I now realize that by doing this, I was furthering the assumptions that I was always this strong person. Today, I know that being myself and showing my authentic emotions not only allows me to be me, but it helps others who see me in a vulnerable state. Another attribute I get associated with is bravery. Bravery makes me feel as though I am doing something above and beyond in the face of danger. I am simply living my life. And I do acknowledge that I go through some challenges that others will not, but everybody goes through challenges. And, getting through “normal” human challenges does not make them brave, it makes them human. I am simply doing what I need to do to stay alive. Which unfortunately for me, comes with a lot more surgeries and procedures than a lot of people. Everyone has difficulties, but getting through them is life, not bravery. I do know that whenever people say things like these to me, they are coming from a place of love and care. The hard part for me, is that it makes me feel like I am failing if I do not feel the same way about myself. I have grown a lot from the 14-year-old girl I was when I was diagnosed. I am more open about how I feel, and how the things people say to me affect me. I might be disabled, but I will never let it stop me. I will never let my illness define me as a person. Because I am more than my wheelchair. And, I might not be an inspiration, but I am a smart, accomplished person. That is what will define me.