The fall semester of 2018 welcomes many new freshmen at Spring Hill College. One freshman, Donovan O’Malley, who was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama mentions that Spring Hill College already feels like his family. He says “Well, I think it's a great place to know more about other people. It is a great variety and also good to learn another perspective as well.” Donovan enjoys hanging out with friends, studying, and also helping out.
Director of Annual Giving, Dr. Cris Smith. Smith shares that, “I have known Donovan since he arrived in my life as the little brother of a student of mine, and she was in the choir. Her parents came to visit, and she brought Donovan, you know her little brother, and the entire choir we sort of adopted him. We were all either adults or High School Students and Donovan walked in and we all said, well your sister is great, but we can keep Donovan. We are good with Donovan.”
Donovan graduated from McGill-Toolen High School and now attends SHC where Smith took him under his wing. He says, “It is a really wonderful set of circumstances, you see this young man where you have watched grow up and then you realize he is going to be a student at where I work, so you know we really want to be able to give everybody an opportunity to really help become who they are in our world here. In developmental alumni relations, that's just part of what we do, is to help people use their skills and talents, and so we were able to do that with Donovan too. ”Whether it is sending emails or talking to alumni, Smith says Donovan always wants to do his best to succeed, even though it may be difficult for him.
Donovan states that, “I was born with a disability called Down Syndrome, but that did not stop me to do anything. It is just something a part of you, like blonde hair or blue eyes. It's just a part of you.”
Cris Smith has had the experience of working with adults and kids with disabilities and absolutely loves it. He says that, “I think we all have a chance to interact or work with people who have labels. We all have labels of some kind, and I think sometimes the world gives certain groups of people a stronger label, a label that is maybe a little harder to overcome that label. So, you have to be more creative of working around the label, so that you can show that you are gifted and talented like everyone else. I think Donovan is really determined to do that.”
Donovan does face a few challenges, but he does not let them get in his way. Smith explains, “Donovan has a love of life, and he wants to be a part of everything that he sees goes on. Whether it is with his family or his dad's job, or whether it was his sister's activities. You could always tell that he had this deep desire to be a part of everything, and not just an observer but to be a part of it.”
Donovan says that, “I want to be known for my abilities, not my disabilities.” Donovan still has 4 more years left on the Hill, but he has a plan to impact people’s lives.
Smith states that, “It will be an exciting moment when he walks down the avenue because if he is the first person with his label that does that, he has broken some barriers. And I can’t imagine a greater impact.”
Obviously, Donovan has already impacted Dr. Cris Smith’s life, and there are most likely many more to come. Donovan shares his long-term goal, “Leave a legacy. I left a legacy at my middle school, my high school, and I want to do the same thing here too.”