It was high school graduation day and when Samantha Sturkey’s name was called, she said: “They had to walk my diploma down to me because they did not think ahead to accommodate for me.”
Sturkey, freshman psychology major born with Spina Bifida, said she doesn’t see limits, but she knows that others do. The graduation experience, she said, serves as a wake-up call for a number of institutions in the United States and around the world. College is not an option for many people living with Spina bifida, but Starkey does not let her disability stop her from pursuing her dreams.
Spina bifida is a condition that affects the spine and is usually apparent at birth. It is a type of neural tube defect.
Sturkey is currently pursuing a degree in psychology with the goal of becoming a child life specialist and providing others with the same kind of care she received as a child.
“I want the kids who are like me to be given the same opportunity that I was given and not be treated any differently than a normal child,” Sturkey said.
Sturkey grew up loving the same things as any other young child. She is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and despite her disability, is an avid basketball player.
“I have been playing basketball ever since I was around five or six and every now and then I go to Dixon just to get up some shots,” Sturkey said.
Sturkey is currently the manager of the women’s basketball team and has been pushing for the university to bring about more inclusive sports for young people like her.
“I would absolutely love to start a club of some sort to bring the young people like me together to play the sport we love,” Sturkey said.
Sturkey commended Cabrini’s efforts to making their campus more handicap accessible.
“Cabrini was one one of the schools I really enjoyed because of their effort they put in to accommodating for someone like me,” Sturkey said.
Sturkey touched on what it was like growing up with spina bifida.
“When I was around the age of seven or eight, I would have kids ask me ‘why are you still wearing diapers?’ and that is something that really affected me,” Sturkey said.
Instead of letting those harsh words occupy her mind, she always saw those situations as an opportunity to teach others.
“I’m not a monster, I am just like everyone else,” Sturkey said.
“I want people to come and ask me questions, not be afraid of me, that is how you learn,” Sturkey said.
Sturkey credits her positive attitude and outlook on life to her faith in God.
“I never think ‘why me?’ I knew God made me this way to teach others and to inspire other people who are dealing with a similar situation,” Sturkey said.
Despite having 23 procedures done before the age of 20, Sturkey would not give this life up for anything
“There was never a moment where I wanted to trade my life for a different one, I’ve been blessed with this life and of course there are going to be tough times, but I always keep pushing and remember why God put me here,” Sturkey said.
Sturkey’s advice to incoming freshmen is, “Be your true self and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.”