“I found community at SPSCC with those who are kind, accepting, and willing to help.”
Mariah Slack is a student at SPSCC pursuing an Associate in Arts. She has a genetic deletion condition known as Williams syndrome (WS), which is characterized by medical problems including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning challenges. Only 3% of people diagnosed with WS graduate from high school. Of that 3%, only 1% go on to college. Mariah has never let these odds get in the way of continuing her education.
“Something that has encouraged me is people saying ‘you can’t do this’ or ‘I’ve never even heard of WS,’” said Mariah. “People would say ‘you can’t be in school’ and I would say ‘yes, I can.’”
When deciding on which college to enroll in, Mariah wanted to go to a college that would prepare her for university while staying close to home. She found that SPSCC was the perfect fit. “I just wanted a college where people would get along and understand each other’s differences. I really liked SPSCC because of that.”
Mariah is thankful for her teachers for not only staying after classes to help her with any work but for also being both kind to and accepting of her. During her time at SPSCC, Mariah was able to explore her passion for drama by taking theatre classes with Dr. Lauren Love.
“I’m a huge Phantom of the Opera fan. I love that play. It’s part of who I am,” she said. “The Phantom has his facial deformities and I have my genetic deletion. People are not always accepting of who he is and people don’t accept who I am.”
Another thing Mariah is passionate about is the medical field. Over the past 10 years, she has been involved with the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) MRI study on WS. During her first few visits, Mariah was nervous about the procedures she’d experience. Luckily, the NIH doctors and staff eased her worries by explaining each procedure and making sure she was prepared. This experience and her own medical journey have inspired Mariah to pursue a similar career.
Being a part of NIH’s study has also taught Mariah many skills that she has carried with her throughout college. “Being patient with all those hours in the scanner and taking all the time to be there has actually helped my education because it taught me to be more patient with things. These things do not come easy, especially transferring from high school to college,” said Mariah. “I have to remind myself to slow down and process the problem one thing at a time.”
As she prepares to graduate this coming spring, Mariah reflects on her time at SPSCC. “It’s been a hard road, but a lot of factors have made me who I am today,” she said. “It’s been fun to go on this journey here at SPSCC and I certainly will miss it.”