The graduation finish line is just 3 days away, but not quite here yet…  Yesterday, though, was bittersweet! Memories came flooding in as I moved out of my second home of the past four years, Cypress Hall at the University of Florida, in the midst of COVID-19… Eerily quiet compared to the activity of move-in during the Fall of 2016…but still My Home. Cypress Hall was just a year young as I moved all my star-lit hanging decorations, an unrealistic amount of college clothes, and a cute teal retro refrigerator bought with high school grad money into UF’s newest living space in a private space. Most students don’t stay in a residence hall for four years, but the reason I came to Cypress was the reason I stayed… it’s one of the most accommodating and innovative residence halls for students with mobility issues in the country. Students actually come here from all over the world!  Being a chair user who is also very social, and as someone who hires Personal Care Assistants to help me, Cypress Hall made the transition to college a lot easier. As fate would have it, I met the Vice President of CPPI at Disney Springs, the construction company that planned and built Cypress, and was soon able to offer his management team a guided walk-through of what it was like to actually live in the space they designed! With a firm like CPPI and a University that is committed to exceeding the required ADA laws, students like me are able to have the independence that we need and deserve while attending college.   

I was lucky enough to be the first person to move into the corner room looking over 13th Street and Museum Road, a major crossroads of college life at the southeastern entrance to the University…entertaining to peek out at 1am in the morning… or across at Sorority Row…or cursing the band practicing at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning…or across from Norman Field for tailgating.  Cypress Hall was more than just a dorm,  it gave me a sense of community, full of like-minded,  smart, competitive, adventurous individuals who I came to know and love. What people from the outside might not know is that more often than not, we spent most nights, trying to squeeze 8 wheelchairs and others into the smallish kitchen. Then we would roast each other over things that a PWD would only be allowed to say to another PWD… oh to be a fly on that wall! Some of those conversations led to wheelchair races in the hall and even a spontaneous trip to McDonald’s at midnight on foot/wheel! I’m pretty sure we got more than a few puzzling glances that night. 

We made life happen there, with advocacy, and successes and hopes and dreams, and challenges met head-on that most students would never face. Home is home, and it’s always hard to say good-bye, especially since there was no one left to say good-bye to. But we will meet again, and remember Cypress Hall. And yes, I turned out the lights…

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