Emily Powell is a young woman with a cervical SCI/D who is a new Clinical Mental Health Counseling Associate working towards completing 3000 hours of clinical supervised work. She is working her dream job as someone who wants to give back to the community and help counsel those in need. She is also successfully living on her own. Get to know more about Emily and her incredible story!
How were you injured? Level of Injury?
I was injured in a car accident as a passenger two days after I turned 16 and have an incomplete spinal cord injury.
Where do you live?
Who was someone that made an impact on you after your injury?
A fellow quad friend of mine from Washington. She made an impact on me because she was the first person and one of the only people I have met with my injury level that found a way to live by herself. That was very encouraging to me as it was always a goal to live on my own.
What is the best piece of advice you received after your SCI?
To continue on with my education as it was my ticket to moving out of my parents house.
What are some of your favorite activities to do in your free time?
I love to go out to eat, shop, go to the movies, reading, and attending concerts.
Why was education important to you and what was your undergrad and graduate schooling process like?
Education has been important to me because it has guaranteed me a job in a specific field that can only be obtained through getting a degree. Undergrad was fairly easy as far as difficulty of classes go. I had a disability coordinator that helped create an education plan that was best suited for me and what I wanted to do. However, graduate school was a lot more challenging. I had to take the GRE (graduate record exam) just to get into grad school. I also had to submit/show my transcript from undergrad. I still had a disability coordinator, but where I did my undergrad was different than where I went to grad school. The disability coordinator was not as educated as my previous one. It gave me the opportunity to educate her more on disability as well. Level of difficulty of classes in grad school is great. The work was much more time-consuming, but certainly rewarding!
Describe a challenging obstacle and proud accomplishment throughout your education journey?
Well, a challenging obstacle would be the disability itself. Being a high-level Quadriplegic, pretty much most of my daily living involves having a caregiver to help me get to where I need to be. When my caregiver did not show up or was sick, etc., I would not be able to get to class. That happened on and off throughout my entire college career. You learn to work with what you have when you are determined to finish the degree. Speaking of a proud accomplishment, was when I graduated with my masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling May of 2022. Everything I ever worked for, was for that moment, so when that day finally arrived I felt very proud.
What are some of the first steps you took to move out and live independently?
The first step was getting my education. I knew that if I was going to live on my own, I needed to be able to financially afford to do so. After years of school, I made the decision that it was time to move out. A very nerve-racking and scary decision, but knew would be the best option for me long-term. Once I decided this is what I was going to do, I didn’t stop until it was accomplished. It took many days, hours, and emails trying to find 3-4 different caregivers. I started looking for apartments, and the rest was history! I have no regrets moving out. It’s not always rainbows and sunshine but it was worth it. I took my power back and I encourage you all to do the same.
How have you tackled challenges you have faced living alone?
This question is complex because there are always challenges. When a challenge arises, I do whatever it takes to get through it. I have learned to ask people for help wherever I go, and that is how I have made a bunch of friends/developed a big support system. You have to put yourself out there. The more people you know, the easier your life will be. If they caregiver cannot come, I will call on one of the many friends I have made. With that being said, living alone as a high-level quad, will always pose challenges. It’s one of those things that you just figure out after you take the leap of faith and move out. I was always scared, I just did it anyway. That is what it means to have true faith. Trusting that it will all work out when you have no idea what is next. All I can say is I find a way even if it is not perfect. And you will too!
What is your dream job?
Being a therapist- I’m currently living my dream job.
Do you have a comment or phrase that motivates you?
“I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do, interfere with what I can do.”