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York College of PA inducts first members of Delta Alpha Pi, academic honor society for students with disabilities

June 29, 2023
Delta Alpha Phi

York College of Pennsylvania inducted this spring the first 28 members of its chapter of Delta Alpha Pi (DAPi), an academic honor society founded to recognize high-achieving undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities who are attending college. The Theta Gamma Chapter at York College was founded in 2022.

“That’s phenomenal for the first cohort of students that came through DAPi,” said Julie Rasmuson, Director of Student Accessibility Services at the College. “Our plan is to continue to grow.”

Rasmuson and her colleague, Testing Accommodations Coordinator Lynda Gardner, co-advise the chapter, which is student-run organization supported by the Student Senate. She knew of DAPi through other institutions and thought it would be a great opportunity to have the honor society for students at York College.

“Participating helps develop leadership skills, advocacy, education, and fosters an opportunity to change the perception surrounding diversity and inclusion of individuals with disabilities,” she said. “It really is designed to build that inclusive culture on a college campus, and to give students with disabilities a sense of belonging and a chance to use their authentic voice to build that culture, which is pivotal.”

Eligibility requirements are that students must register through the Office of Student Accessibility Services (they are not required to utilize accommodations); must be at sophomore level (24 credits completed); and must maintain a 3.1 GPA. Graduate students are also eligible with 18 credits completed and a 3.3 GPA. Both groups must demonstrate an interest in disability issues and perform six hours of service related to disability inclusion awareness and acceptance.

“York’s chapter made service hours a requirement,” Rasmuson said, “because that’s a hallmark of our experience. At York College, it’s really important to give back to the local community.”

In April, Theta Gamma Chapter members painted rocks to share with those who participated in the annual Autism Expo and Walk for Autism held at the York Revs Stadium. “We painted rocks to share with the attendees at the Autism Walk,” said Gardner. “This was a way for us to include people that liked the idea of hiding the painted rocks but didn't want to paint their own. Rock painting also gave us time to come together as a group. We also hid some rocks around campus before finals. We hope some of our rocks brought smiles to a few faces.”

More than 600 students are served by the Office of Student Accessibility Services at the College. “A significant number of our students do have disabilities,” Rasmuson said. “They don’t all look the same, and their journeys are very different. They are not alone, and there are supports and services here from both peers and various offices that work together to build an inclusive culture.”

Alexa Cecil, a senior Nursing major, serves as one of those supports. She is a peer mentor for students with Autism. “Many people forget that anyone can have a disability," she said. "Disabilities can't always be seen with the naked eye, such as a wheelchair or a cane. Anyone around you can be struggling with anxiety, depression, dyslexia, the list goes on.

“This is why it is SO important that individuals are educated on what it means to have a disability and how we need to accommodate them, and that is why we need an organization like DAPi on York's campus. There is no other program or organization on campus dedicated solely to the students who utilize accommodations through the Student Accessibility Office, and they deserve to be noticed and celebrated.”

Cecil, who is currently serving as president of DAPi, was presented with the organization’s first ACCESS award last year. “From my understanding, the award is offered to an individual who demonstrates the most initiative to create change for the campus,” she said. “It also recognizes the individual who has put the most work and effort into the organization to help it grow.”

There are many benefits of DAPi, according to Cecil, including spreading awareness of disability, providing leadership skills, teaching individuals how to advocate for themselves, and a chance to foster change on the York College campus. “DAPi also provides an opportunity for students to meet other people like them, making them feel less alone in this world,” she added.