Noah and Ellen Davis

Learning to Serve Those with Disabilities

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by Heidie Raine, Student Public Relations Writer

When sophomore Ellen Davis was asked about her passions and hopes for the school of education, her childhood alongside a younger brother with Down syndrome inspired an advocacy event to encourage and exhort her peers.

On Monday, March 22, Cedarville University’s Student Education Association (SEA) will host a disabilities forum to address how individuals can care for those with special needs. The event, which will feature expert panelists and personal testimonials, will be held in Cedarville’s Dixon Ministry Center Recital Hall at 7 p.m. and is open to the public. COVID-19 protocols will be observed. 

The event will discuss different questions students may have about how to interact with individuals who have disabilities, disability etiquette, and how to help families with disabled members become more connected in the church.

Planning the event are Brittney Oliver, SEA president and a senior early childhood education major from Fairborn, Ohio; Dr. Kevin Jones, dean and assistant professor of education; and Davis, an early education and special education double major from Lafayette, Indiana. SEA’s board of officers also contributed to planning efforts.  

Davis’s experiences with her brother, Noah, instilled a deep passion in her to care for those with disabilities. She originally shared her perspective and the idea for the program with Jones.

“He asked about our lives and what we were passionate about,” Davis said. “I shared about my heart for disability in the church, and my desire for the church to grow in sharing the gospel and integrating people with special needs. He asked if I would want to put on an event, and I jumped at the chance.”

Once aware of the idea, Jones shared the event concept with Oliver, who took the lead in planning the event. Through SEA meetings, brainstorming, and a variety of phone calls, Oliver settled on the panel structure and began reaching out to potential panelists.

One of the featured panelists is Grace Minor Becknell, a local woman whose brother passed away about a year ago in part due to his cerebral palsy. Davis will also speak on the panel, as well as a select few professionals in the realm of special education.

“When people arrive at the event, they will be able to scan a QR code and enter their questions,” Oliver noted. “The questions will show up on the projector and the panel will answer them. We have certain topics we definitely want to discuss, but we plan to open up the floor for questions.”

“God has called Christians to share the gospel with everyone, not just those who are the same as them,” Davis said. “If this event encourages even one person to get to know someone in their church with disabilities, it will be worth it to me.”

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 4,550 undergraduate, graduate, and online students in more than 150 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is one of the largest private universities in Ohio, recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, including the Bachelor of Arts in Primary (P-5) Education and Bachelor of Arts in Primary (P-5) Special Education programs, strong graduation, and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and high student engagement ranking. For more information about the University, visit www.cedarville.edu.