By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart
SUNY Broome’s core mission is to support all members of the learning community by creating access to inclusive and diverse educational experiences. While most students think of the College’s mission statement as a sentence on their syllabi, for Paralegal: A.A.S. student Bradley Mogenson, promoting inclusive learning is his life’s passion. Through Mogenson’s dedicated work, self-advocacy, and partnership with the Accessibility Resources Office (ARO), he has thrived at SUNY Broome and is set to graduate in May.
Bradley Mogenson was born and raised in Windsor, NY. During his early childhood, he was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Disease, a group of genetic disorders that affect a cell’s ability to produce energy and cause a wide range of symptoms. Mogenson spent so much of his childhood in and out of Syracuse’s Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital that he jokingly refers to it as his “home away from home.” As a result of his health, Bradley’s educational path was unique.
From first to fifth grade, Mogenson was homeschooled. As Bradley entered sixth grade, a collective decision was made to integrate him back into a mainstream classroom with a modified schedule that included home instruction to fill in gaps. This was when Bradley was first introduced to Justin Leonard, a special education instructor who played a critical role in Bradley’s unconventional academic journey.
Together, Mr. Leonard helped Bradley to navigate the educational and social highs and lows of middle and high school. They bonded over their shared love of movies, pop culture, and dry humor. As the years went by, Bradley needed Mr. Leonard less and less to access the curriculum of each of his classes. Mogenson also began to flourish through active involvement in Windsor’s extracurricular activities like Key Club and Drama Club.
As Bradley entered his senior year and started to explore his college options, he realized that he needed to enhance his high school schedule to earn a Regents diploma. In an impressive display of self-advocacy, Mogenson worked with Windsor Central School District to craft a specialized academic plan to complete the requirements for a Regents diploma. He then shared his suggestions with the New York State Education Department to help future students with their course selections.
“I learned how important it is to be familiar with policies and procedures and not to be afraid to ask for help and clarification,” Mogenson said.
With a solid plan in place, Bradley began to tackle his new classes and prepare for his exams. Everything was progressing beautifully until it came time for the math Regents. The night before the test, Bradley was rushed into emergency surgery. Thankfully, Mr. Leonard also liked to read State Ed’s policies and procedures. He knew that Bradley would simply need to start the exam on the official date, but then could continue the test at a later time after recuperating. So, the next day, Justin Leonard drove an hour to Upstate in Syracuse and officially administered Bradley’s math Regents exam at his bedside.
“Mr. Leonard woke me up, asked me one question, and said, ‘Ok, you started the exam. Now get some rest,” Mogenson explained. “I actually ended up completing two other Regents during that hospital stay!”
Though it took a little extra time, Bradley completed and passed all of his Regents exams. Primed for another challenge, he applied to SUNY Broome. Bradley’s next critical step was to contact SUNY Broome’s Accessibility Resources Office (ARO). ARO provides students with disabilities pathways of access through a myriad of services, including testing accommodations, interpreters and note-takers, alternative format texts, assistive technology support, academic coaching, and more.
Unlike at the K-12 level, where IEP or 504 plans are the responsibility of the school district to implement, college students are obligated to self-identify and collaborate with the Accessibility Resources Office to create reasonable accommodations for academic or extracurricular campus activities. Understanding this, Bradley didn’t hesitate to attend a (pandemic) Zoom meeting with the entire ARO staff, armed with a long list of questions.
Mogenson benefits from a wide variety of ARO’s services and assistive technologies and is a regular in the ARO suite, working on his Paralegal: A.A.S. coursework in the computer lab or just hanging out with friends. While the ARO team is always ready and willing to jump in with support, they are rooted in a philosophy of building student self-awareness and self-advocacy and encourage Bradley to take the lead.
“A few weeks before the semester starts, I introduce myself to my professors through email and explain the details of my accommodations. I loop in ARO as well, especially in case I have a medical emergency during the semester,” Mogenson explained. “For me, it’s not if I get an infection, but when I get an infection. So these small self-advocacy steps go a long way to ensure that I have a successful semester.”
After Bradley walks across the commencement stage in May, he plans to transfer to Binghamton University to continue his studies in Philosophy, Politics, and Law (PPL). After that, he’s off to law school to pursue his ultimate goal of becoming a disability rights attorney.
“My best advice is not to let your disabilities define who you are. Always advocate for yourself and find others who will advocate alongside you.”