LatestNews

January 8, 2024


Mesa's DSPS Alumni at Work: Taylor Carpenter is Leading with Love

By Lindsay White (Disability Support Programs and Services-SDCCD)

Taylor Carpenter holding two associate’s degree certificates from Mesa College.

The DSPS Alumni at Work series reconnects with former SDCCD students who utilized Disability Support Programs and Services to help them navigate their journey from college to career. Today, we are excited to shine a spotlight on San Diego Mesa College graduate Taylor Carpenter.

Creating Spaces for Marginalized Voices

Carpenter attended San Diego Mesa College from 2016 to 2020, earning two Associate Degrees during her time there, one in Communication Studies and the other in Black Studies. She was also active in student leadership and advocacy, serving two years as Associated Students President and Student Trustee for the SDCCD Board of Trustees.

 

“I didn’t see anyone who looked like me in a leadership role,” said Carpenter, who was born with a genetic condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, commonly referred to as Brittle Bone Disease.

 

“People see people in wheelchairs and they tend to feel bad; they pity us,” she said, reflecting on her motivations to step into student leadership positions. “I really wanted to challenge that way of thinking and reshape the way that people see me or others with disabilities. Our student perspective is unique, important, valid, and should be heard and valued in the decision-making process the same way that everyone else’s is. I became an advocate so that I could create a space for every marginalized voice to be listened to. There are a lot of young people who believe the lie that they do not matter, their opinion is valueless, and that no one cares about them. I entered into leadership to let those people know that they are loved, valued, and that they matter.”

Self-Advocacy and Support

As Carpenter advocated for members of the SDCCD community, she also advocated for herself, noting that her disability impacted almost every experience of college life. Through participation in DSPS, she felt empowered to speak up about issues of equity and access. Carpenter recalled a specific example:

 

“I remember a time when there was a brand-new building that had bathroom sinks which were all perfectly up to code and followed ADA guidelines. The problem was that my short arms could not reach the soap, nor the water control. I could not wash my hands in that bathroom, nor could anyone else who had mobility or height challenges. Thanks to the support of DSPS, I ended up meeting with the building’s architect, who listened to my concerns and came up with a brilliant solution. They ended up changing the placement of the soap and water on the last sink bowl to have them dispense out of either side, making it more accessible for everyone. Whether it was a physical barrier, or a policy oversight, knowing that I had support helped me to move with courage and tenacity.”

A Unique Asset 2019 Class of Mesa College AS leaders gather in group picture in business clothing in front of Mesa's LRC building.

 

Carpenter continued her studies after Mesa, earning a BA in Education from National University. She now works in elementary education, and sees her disability as a unique asset that sets her apart.

 

"I view it as this really cool, different, special gift I bring to the table that no one else can replicate,” she said. “It has only served to enhance the education of the students I teach. I am able to teach them more about empathy, kindness, acceptance, and how to be helpful."

 

In light of the positive impact she's had on her students, we asked Carpenter to share some encouraging words with SDCCD students with disabilities who are working toward similar academic and employment pursuits.

 

"Never doubt yourself,” she said, “Buckle down and focus on what actually matters. Carry yourself forward with integrity and purpose, even when it gets difficult. Even when it maybe isn’t what you wanted or thought it would be. Don’t ever give up on yourself."

 

Staying true to her own advice, Carpenter is entertaining the idea of furthering her education while remaining open to future possibilities. At the moment, having recently recovered from an injury, she’s simply looking forward to “staying healthy for while.”

 

At DSPS, we’re wishing her nothing but continued health and success! Thank you, Taylor, for sharing your story with us and for using your talents, knowledge, and experiences to advance access, equity, and education for those around you!

 

If you are a SDCCD student with a disability looking for academic and/or vocational support please visit DSPS to learn about the programs we offer!

 

Additional Sources: SD Voyager Magazine, SDCCD News Center

Tags: Press Release, DSPS, Mesa Alumni, Mesa College Alumni, #mesaalumni