As a person with a visual impairment, USC Upstate student Patrick Mack is acutely aware of the stereotypes and limitations that are imposed upon persons with disabilities by those around them. He knows firsthand about the importance of self-advocacy as well as the significance of providing support to those who are not able to advocate for themselves. His community engagement work has centered around grassroots efforts to champion persons with disabilities, and teaching them how to influence the opinions or behavior of others.
Patrick began his involvement with community engagement while still in high school and has become more active over the last 18 months. His volunteer work with AbleSC, an organization committed to increasing the employability and employment of persons with disabilities, has evolved into part-time employment. This fall, Patrick founded and became the President of Common Ground, a students with disabilities advocacy group on the USC Upstate campus. The goal of the organization is to assure that students with disabilities are provided the accommodations and services appropriate for their disability such that they can be fully immersed in their campus community.
I’m pleased to have been allowed the opportunity to apply for the Newman Civic Fellowship. To me, being community-oriented means igniting the flame of togetherness in a very divided country.
It has not only been my purpose to serve people who are underrepresented, but my calling to help people with disabilities and advocate for their rights. I have worked at AbleSC for 3 years in efforts to educate, advocate, and uplift youth with disabilities by working to end the use of sub-minimum wage, enforcing the importance of inclusive classrooms, and correcting other issues people with disabilities face such as unemployment and sexual abuse. I have spoken with local and state officials, executed lessons to those around me on ways to properly help my community, and started an organization called Common Ground for educating the USC Upstate community on universal language and how to be more accessible. I found purpose in my pride and confidence in my disability. Later on this gave me the guts to want better for myself and my community and to assist in creating more go-getters. I have spoken at various events on the topic and will continue to use my voice for the justice of all.