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News Releases

From Special Ed to Author, Speaker, and Engaged Citizen

When Melissa Draper was growing up with disabilities in Monticello, Indiana, expectations for her were not high. "Elementary school all the way up to high school was very difficult for me because they automatically labeled me as special education. They just stuck me right into that label." In this 5-minute video, Draper describes how she transformed her challenging school experience into her adult life as a published author, speaker, and engaged citizen of her community.

cover of Follow Your Dreams by Melissa DraperWriting her book took 10 years. In 2006, Author House published her memoir Follow Your Dreams. "When I published my book I went back to the high school and that felt so good because one of the teachers that told me that I would not amount to anything and I wouldn't graduate. I was so excited because I'm like, see I wrote a book. I amount to something. How dare you say I can't be somebody because of the way I am."

"Looking back to all the little kids, you know, I just wanna be able to open their eyes up and to help other disabled people know that it's okay to be different. And we can do whatever we want, if we put our minds to it. So that's how my book came about. I was like 21 and decided to set down and write a book. It took me about 10 years to write it."

Now Draper does a lot of public speaking at schools, encouraging students who might be experiencing bullying or teachers' low expectations. "I've spoke to a lot of kids from high schools out there and it's the greatest feeling to be able to tell a little bit of your story, a five minute piece of my story, and somebody come up to you and say you saved my life today I was going to go home and kill myself. So that's why I do what I do."

This video was recorded at the 2013 annual conference of the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities, and is hosted on the CAC Voices YouTube channel from the Center on Aging and Community at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community. All CAC Voices videos are captioned: click on the “CC” icon at the bottom of the video to turn captions on or off.

still photo of Melissa Draper video interview

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