Students with Challenges Welcomed and Embraced

Kids wave pompoms

Community members enjoy “Playing for Inclusion,” an outreach program coordinated by the Disable the Label club, Best Buddies and Love of the Game.

By Sheila Eppolito

Alyssa Mulno starts most days at 4 a.m.

The senior nursing major gets up in the dark and makes her way to clinicals at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital. Then, it’s on to Spaulding Rehabilitation Center in Cambridge, where she works in the neurology section of the Complex Rehabilitation Department caring for people with head injuries, paralysis, effects of strokes and other complicated brain injuries. 

Her work has exposed her to the challenges people face from brain injuries, and she’s been driven to help, both on the job and on campus, as president of the ( Disable the Label (DTL) club.

DTL was founded “to unify every member of our college community and create equality disregarding any limitations,” Mulno says. “The goal is to unite people with unique challenges and to welcome those students with disabilities and their allies.”

She is quick to point out the critical role DTL’s executive board plays in augmenting efforts to reach those with physical and cognitive disabilities, often through creative, unusual methods. To bring students together, the club has a full calendar of events, discussions, movies and games, including a packed agenda for March, which is National Disable the Label Month. 

DTL’s outreach cuts across physical, emotional and psychological factors that may alienate students. Upcoming activities include a session devoted to sharing mood-boosting tips, an Islamic awareness event, and later in the semester, a video game night, an accessibility hike and a screening of “Still Alice,” a film about Alzheimer’s disease.  

“Last semester, to help members understand the difficulties faced by fellow students, the club made a scavenger hunt on campus, and included some hard-to-reach locations,” says Mulno. “It was important for students for even a short period of time to get a taste of the challenges fellow students face every day.”

Mackenzie Carr, also a senior nursing major, joined the club after learning about it through her freshman year resident adviser.

“As a future nurse, I need to be able to care for all people, so I try to learn as much as I can about every population,” Carr says.

Kids with Rowdy the Riverhawk
Rowdy the River Hawk gets the crowd excited at "Playing for Inclusion."

A recent collaboration between DTL and two other organizations devoted to inclusion — ( Best Buddies and Love of the Game — brought together children and adolescents from the community through a program called “Playing for Inclusion.” The university’s field hockey team and women’s hockey club taught floor hockey through a series of scrimmages and drills while being cheered on by Rowdy the River Hawk and university cheerleaders.

“I will cherish that day, because it was so powerful to see how much fun all the kids were having,” says Carr. “A mom of one of the participants told me that she was thrilled to bring her son to the event because he loves sports, but isn’t often included in sports leagues or teams.”

Mulno sums up the motivation behind the long list of organized programs, movies, games and activities.

“As a club, we stand for acceptance.”

For more information about upcoming DTL events, check out the ( club's website.