A Message Of Love and Advocacy
“I was born and raised in the Bronx,” says Luis Alvarez, president of the BCC chapter of the CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities (CCSD). “My big sisters took high school classes on the BCC campus and my dad used to drop them off and it looked like they were going into a castle. I always wanted to go up those stairs.”
For Luis, that goal was more challenging than it might be for others. He is visually impaired and suffers from anxiety and depression as well. “I’m Dominican and Puerto Rican and in our culture, we don’t really talk about things like that. My first semester, I didn’t have a lot of friends and stuck to myself. Then I heard about the CCSD and our chapter, I went… and I fell in love with what they were saying. The message was love yourself and others and advocate for yourself and others.”
Now it is a message he spreads himself both as president of the BCC’s CCSD and Vice Chair for Recruitment for Coalition on the CUNY-wide level. In those positions, the education major also acts as the representative of the BCC disabled community to the College.
“I’ve been involved with the designing of the evacuation plan for disabled students. We’ve conducted a survey, which we may take to other CUNY campuses to examine what students and faculty know about disability. We’ve had an event on how to get students with disabilities to vote. We focused on how to register, how to do the absentee ballot. We’re all about empowerment and there’s nothing more empowering than getting out to vote.”
He gives high marks to Bronx Community College for its awareness of issues facing students with disabilities and particularly for the work of the Office of Disability Services. “I feel that BCC has one of the greatest disability offices in CUNY. Even during this pandemic, they are still amazing. I have visual technology on my laptop that wasn’t working one day and the assistive technology specialist took control of my computer and she fixed it remotely. It was super cool — something out of Star Wars.”
The Disabilities Coalition has also been active during the pandemic on BCC’s virtual campus. “We have done so many events to keep students engaged and involved. We’ve done study sessions, we did a “survival kit” for online learning.” One of the more popular regular events is movie night.
“A lot more students with disabilities are identifying themselves and registering with us. You don’t have to have a disability to join our club. You can be an advocate, you can have a family member who has a disability. Sometimes people just come for the food!”