Victoria Graham first learned of Mount St. Mary’s University when she took dual enrollment courses at the University in high school. After high school, Graham attended an out-of-state university seeking a degree in biology on the pre-medical track, but the diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which causes neurological complications and severe spinal instability, made college too taxing to pursue — until she looked at the Mount's undergraduate program for adult students.
Over the past five years, I learned that there is no race to earn a college degree. This realization came after ten brain and spinal neurosurgeries over the course of only three years, which completely interrupted my entire life. Throughout this process, I began working with the Miss Maryland and Miss America organizations and founded a non-profit organization of my own, The Zebra Network, which works to increase awareness, education, advocacy and support for patients with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Between service events and appearances, running a non-profit, and managing my own health, going back to school to earn my undergraduate degree in the traditional format was nearly impossible.
It had been a year and seven surgeries since I had even attempted a college course, and since that time I had suffered significant brain damage, my mental capabilities were altered, and, above all, I was nervous. When I learned about the opportunities in the Mount’s adult undergraduate program, it seemed like a great fit for my schedule and for me personally. Not many schools offer the ability to work and go to school; but with this program, I could work during the day and go to class at night. The course met once a week for only five weeks.
I am so excited to earn my degree through the Mount in a way that fits my lifestyle as a working adult. I can continue my education in a way that does not sacrifice my job or other commitments. I can serve my community and raise awareness for invisible illnesses as Miss Frostburg 2017. I can work as founder and president for The Zebra Network. I can finally earn my undergraduate degree.
A career in health care and the non-profit sector can be extremely difficult to obtain, but by earning my degree at the Mount, I know I will defy the odds of living and working with a disability. I am ready to soar in my career thanks to experiences only offered through the adult undergraduate program at Mount St. Mary’s University.
By Victoria Graham