Advocating For Human Rights – Patricia Bordonaro

Patricia Bordonaro, ’17, believes the chance to go back to school has been a miracle. After working in the public school system for 17 years, she was diagnosed in 2007 with a brain tumor.

Not only did the tumor cost Patricia her vision in one eye, her memory, and some cognitive functioning – it also caused her to lose her job. “I was terminated from my position for becoming disabled,” she said. “I felt this was wrong, so I fought for my rights and a change in that county’s policy for disabled employees.”

After successfully helping to create that policy change, Patricia said she felt she needed a change in her own life. With encouragement from her family, she decided to go back to school.

Originally, Patricia thought she wanted to continue to pursue teaching, but after taking a few psychology courses at Wake Tech in the spring of 2012,  her passions began to shift. She was excelling in college until she faced yet another setback in December 2014.

“I suddenly lost all of the feeling in my left side,” Patricia said. “Four days later, I woke up in the hospital.”

Patricia found herself facing another diagnosis, this time with Hemiparesis and Ataxia with neurological deficits. However, she didn’t let that stop her from achieving her goal of finishing school. “I went back to classes and after a lot of hard work, in a wheelchair, I graduated from Wake Tech in May 2015 with my associate of arts degree.”

It was then that Patricia found Meredith College. With the help of Tom Manning, director of WINGS, and Cynthia Edwards, department head, psychology and social work, she decided to declare her major in social work. “Social work seemed to define me,” she said. “Advocating for others, finding resources, social justice, human rights, research – that’s what I walked away with from my social work classes that first semester, and that’s what inspired me to pursue a career in that field.”

Despite using a wheelchair and facing many financial obstacles, Patricia has been determined from day one to walk across the stage and receive a diploma from Meredith. This May, she will accomplish that goal. “I have learned that my disability is part of me, but not all of me,” she said. “On May 13, I plan to walk, I will not roll, across that stage to receive my diploma.”

With her professors, mentors, and peers at her side, Patricia has taken full advantage of Meredith’s opportunities and resources. This semester, she is completing her field placement at Life Experiences in Cary, an agency that offers work for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She also completed undergraduate research on American Sign Language and hopes that one day, it will be offered as a foreign language at Meredith.

In addition to the many opportunities Patricia has been given during her time here, she’s also gained a family and community of support. She was worried that she wouldn’t fit in because of her age and disability, but says she couldn’t have been more wrong. From the moment she stepped on campus, Patricia felt at home.

“When I first came to Meredith, I had no idea that I would become a part of such an accepting and supportive community,” said Patricia. “When we leave here, we walk away with more than just an education. We walk away with honor, dignity, and relationships that are as unbreakable as the onyx we wear.”

By Cailyn Clymore, ’18

Learn more about Wings – Adult Education at Meredith