In December, Eduardo Arellano will receive his bachelor’s degree in business, with a concentration in marketing. Like most soon-to-be graduates, he is proud of his work and grateful to his professors. However, he did experience a freshman year transition that was less than ideal. This inspired him to become a peer mentor during his final year, in order to smooth the path for future incoming students who, like him, have disabilities.
Arellano has Merosin-deficient muscular dystrophy, so he faces challenges with mobility. With a few adjustments to his classroom environments and other work spaces, this is not an insurmountable problem. Initially, though, it was not as easy as it could have been.
The transition from high school to college was pretty hard at first, Arellano said. In high school, the teachers already know you, and they know what kind of help you need. No one had told me about all the paperwork I’d need to do on my own in order to get accommodations at IUSB.
He vowed to help make it easier for the next students in the same position.
Since I just did it, I can help someone else so that they don’t have the difficulties I had during my freshman year, he said.
An Elkhart native, Arellano was a natural fit for IU South Bend.
With my disability, living on my own isn’t really an option, so it had to be somewhere in the area near Elkhart. It’s accessible and I can get around campus, plus I was able to commute back and forth from home every day, he said. It’s not a super big university with a lot of people rushing to get from one classroom to another. That makes it a lot easier to get around, and it gives you more time to meet people.
His mom could drop him off and pick him up, and negotiating campus in a wheelchair was easy enough once those initial hurdles were cleared. Just having someone turn a desk to the side was all the help he needed in many cases.
At first, my classmates just didn’t know what I needed, but by the second or third week, I didn’t have to ask for help, he said. They’d just move the desk around for me.
Through the Titans Mentoring Titans initiative’s partnership with Mentor Collective, Arellano received his certificate of completion of the program’s student success mentor training course this June, and he has started working with three mentees.
He spent June and July in a summer internship with the Gregory S. Fehribach Center at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis. The Fehribach Center offers a series of paid internships for Indiana college students with physical disabilities. Arellano’s position was fully remote, working as a member of Eskenazi Health’s public affairs and marketing team, helping with social media, writing, and editing.
They’re very good about finding the right fit for everyone, Arellano said.
His experience was so positive that he was dismayed that no one else from IU South Bend had taken advantage of the program this summer, and he encourages interested parties to find out more about the internships by visiting eskenazihealth.edu/programs/Fehribach-Center.
Once he has officially graduated in December, Arellano’s dream job would be working as a member of the marketing team for the Indianapolis Colts or Pacers, but he said he would be happy enough with something Elkhart-based and ideally remote.
Working remotely has been awesome for me, he said. I never thought I would like it, because I like interacting with people directly, but I really did like it. After Covid hit, remote jobs are just so much more available than they used to be.