Marco Orlando

Many of us have probably been asked what we wanted to be when we grow up, some of us more than once, and even long after we’ve been out of school. But it’s okay if we don’t always have that part figured out yet, no matter where we are in life. I’ll be honest, I haven’t always known what I’ve wanted out of life. For the longest time, my main goal was just to be happy, and there were times where I felt like I couldn’t even do that right. Even so, it’s important that we at least get started somewhere. And once we get started, we’ve got to keep stepping. The destination doesn’t really matter as much as how we all get to where we want to be.

“Keep stepping.” That was the mantra of the late great “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. You may recall the story of how my mother dragged me out of bed one morning to register for college classes in the summer of 2007 after I had lost my job. Even though I was more concerned with trying to find work, I was willing to give college a fair chance in the meantime, not really knowing what to expect. I gave my best effort, and I stuck with it. My hard work was rewarded with an Associate’s Degree in office management on May 3, 2009.

For years after that, I established a pattern of working mostly office jobs in female-dominated workplaces, particularly in social and human services. When I felt I had given everything I could to these roles, I decided I wanted to try something different. I had wanted to get more in touch with my creative side and try to make a career out of art. I wasn’t making very much money with it, but it was something I enjoyed and wasn’t quite as stressful as the work I had done in the past. It gave me something to keep my mind busy, but in a good way.

While that was going on, I realized I was having a breakout year in terms of my involvement with Speaking Up For Us and self-advocacy and disability rights efforts in general. I had plenty of experience from my involvement in social and human services as I started coming into my own more as a leader in those circles. I became more socially progressive in my approach as I fought hard for the changes that I wanted to see. I felt passionately about the issues that people with disabilities have been facing in all aspects of their everyday lives. I wanted what I was doing to make a difference.

My mother and I were talking one day a while back, and she suggested that I think about going back to college. A more advanced degree would go further if I expected to be taken seriously in my chosen field. I agreed. I would have hated for those credit hours I had acquired going towards my Associate’s Degree to go to waste. So with her support, I enrolled in a Bachelor’s Degree program through Western Governors University (WGU). They were able to transfer most of my credit hours, and I was able to get financial aid to help me out. WGU is an online university based out of Salt Lake City, and they take a proficiency-based approach to college education that allows their students to accelerate through their courses and complete their work faster based on what they already know. As I write this, I’m currently wrapping up the first of six terms towards my Bachelor’s Degree. I’m also seriously considering going towards a Master’s Degree once I’m finished. But I’ve got to keep stepping.

If you are self advocate and would like to share a blog post with us please email Laurie Coldwell at   


The Speaking Up For Us (SUFU) blog contains views and opinions of each individual writer. The views and opinions expressed through these channels are purely the bloggers’ own and does not reflect the opinion of SUFU as an organization or any SUFU staff member.

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