After receiving several emails from university friends and faculty members encouraging her to apply for a contest she had minimal previous knowledge about, junior Ariana Meltzer-Bruhn agreed to apply to Glamour’s Top Ten College Women Readers’ Choice Contest.
She went through a general application process, an interview, several follow-up questions and eventually was listed as a finalist.
And she earned it.
As the founder and president of LeVeL, a university club opening up awareness on able-ism, she has changed the lives of many.
Senior Frank Kineavy, a student who has been impacted by LeVeL, has only good things to say about his “go-to girl” and her work.
“She not only organized my student helpers, but she basically jump-started social life here at Villanova,” Kineavy says.
“On Friday nights when previously I was sitting in my room watching TV by myself, she would bring her friends over or a group of us would go out to dinner.
“Through that, I have made some of my closest friends. She is basically my second sister.”
Meltzer-Bruhn founded LeVeL after completing a 5k on crutches and receiving more praise for her efforts than did a fellow competitor in a wheelchair, according to Glamour’s website description of her.
She began to question able-ism and how she could change its image.
After speaking with the student disabilities office, she realized that disabled students are often with paid adults so all of their needs can be met.
She felt they lacked the “normal” college experience that able-bodied students have.
With that, she began LeVeL.
It has grown into a popular club and a student-based on-campus home for both volunteers and students like Kineavy.
“Honestly it’s not about the prize money or being featured, it’s an amazing chance to showcase LeVeL and to look at able-ism and ability in a new light,” Meltzer-Bruhn says.
“I’ve gotten a lot of comments and support. A lot of people know someone who is disabled, and when it hits close to home, LeVeL connects with people.”
This isn’t the first time Meltzer-Bruhn has been recognized for her efforts, but it does seem to be a jumping off point for more exposure for her mission.
She was invited to give a TedX talk last year about LeVeL and able-ism, and she is going to meet with the chief adviser of the Department on Disability Services in D.C. before she leaves to study abroad.
She is hoping LeVel will continue to grow while she is gone for the semester and even after her graduation.
Other universities have reached out to her, wanting to create partner branches of LeVeL, but she’s not sure what direction she wants to go in quite yet.
She is, however, ready to move forward in on-campus efforts.
One immediate goal is to make religious retreats accessible to all because they are quintessential Villanova experiences.
LeVeL’s fundraiser, a casino night held last spring, provided for a scholarship fund to aid students with physical needs to come to Villanova.
“Regardless, I want to keep the community atmosphere LeVeL has,” she says. “I want to keep that idea of community and continue making it a place for students to call home and have friends and opportunities for different activities.”
Meltzer-Bruhn says this has been a great opportunity for her and LeVel, whether or not she wins.
Kineavy shares these sentiments.
“By creating LeVel she single-handedly transformed the college experience of so many of her peers who are disabled,” he says. “And [she] will continue to transform college experiences at Villanova long after she graduates.”
Voting for Glamour’s contest is open until Jan. 28th at: http://www.glamour.com/inspired/blogs/the-conversation/2013/01/the-2013-top-ten-college-women.html.