Elisabeth Colcol of Disabled Student Services

Helping Students, Like Her, Succeed

June 25, 2007

In his book “You Can’t Go Home Again,” Thomas Wolfe writes about a man whose success seemingly alienates him from his family and hometown.

Wolfe’s character, George Webber, flees but eventually returns home.

Elisabeth Colcol’s story is similar, except she’s returned home twice.

Colcol, coordinator of support services in Disabled Student Services, came to Cal State Fullerton intending to eventually earn a doctorate. She had applied to several universities near her home and thought she would go to UCI, only that university had asked her to take a special math program in the summer.

She demurred — that summer she was in Japan as a foreign exchange student — and she went to CSUF instead.  Still, she thought she would be at Fullerton for two years and then switch to UCI.

Instead, “I loved it here,” she says with a smile. Born with mild cerebral palsy, she discovered how accommodating the campus was, first through Disabled Student Services and then with her interactions with faculty. “They took an interest in me and how I was doing.”

So, she stayed and completed first a bachelor’s, then a master’s degree, both in American studies. Although the plan had been to continue her studies, she was hesitant, feeling a little burned out from all the work.

A friend asked her to come and watch her teach a special education course; perhaps this was a career for Colcol. Although, she liked the idea, “I originally resisted becoming a special education teacher. I though she had suggested it only because of my CP,” Colcol said.

The biggest decision maker for her, however, was how comfortable and natural it felt — like coming home.

Colcol taught special education for four years at Corvallis Middle School in Norwalk. Her students treated her like any other teacher: “They respected me just like any other teacher and disrespected me just like any other,” she notes with a smile, almost with glee. “I remember after my first month there, the principal came in and watched the class. Later he told me ‘the kids don’t see your CP, they see a teacher.’

“Because I had a disability [and knew the things they would try], they couldn’t get away with much. They sure didn’t like that.

“But their parents — I think it gave them hope to see me and what I was doing.”

Still, after four years, Colcol was looking for new opportunities. A position in Disabled Student Services opened up.

“It was something I had always wanted to do,” she explained about her position as coordinator of support services. “I work with students on accommodations that will help them be successful in the classroom. I make arrangements with the faculty.”

Her job puts her in contact with all students on campus who seek out assistance because of physical disabilities. She even works with those with temporary disabilities, such as a broken arm. She helps set up extra time for students to take tests or makes arrangements for them to use a computer program that types out what they say in answer to test questions.

“Just to see the relief on their faces, it’s great.” Elisabeth Colcol is home — again.

For more information, go to: http://www.fullerton.edu/disabledservices/handbook/DSSGenInfo.htm


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