Dancer, swimmer, employee, homecoming queen, high school graduate and youth leader are just a few of the many titles that describe Bethany Wissler. Bethany is also a scholarship recipient and college student with Down Syndrome, and she lets nothing stop her from accomplishing her goals.
After becoming Whitmer’s 2013 Homecoming Queen and graduating in 2014, Bethany has remained extremely active in the community. Not only does she take social classes through The Ark and work as a hostess at Outback Steakhouse, but also she was selected to serve on staff for the youth leadership forum for special needs in Columbus.
This year Bethany is taking on an even bigger endeavor, as she is now a proud University of Toledo Rocket. She was recently accepted into the University of Toledo’s Postsecondary Transition Program, a college program intended to help young adults with disabilities enhance their skills for employment or prepare them for a degree program. The program focuses on creating curriculum and experiences to help students academically and socially, as well.
Kathy Wissler, Bethany’s mother, heard about the program several years ago. “I contacted them two years ago, but we decided to try a different avenue first,” she said, referring to Bethany’s position at Outback Steakhouse. Kathy said she felt this year Bethany was more mature and “ready to try something else.”
For the first semester, Bethany will be on campus twice a week, working on a couple credit hours. “She’s just excited about the whole idea of college, and taking on new challenges,” Kathy said.
To help with expenses, Bethany applied for the Ruby’s Rainbow Scholarship, intended for individuals over 18 who have Down Syndrome. She is the proud recipient of a $3,000 scholarship.
A Lasting Friendship
To add to the excitement, Bethany’s best friend Grace Haskins, a nursing student and member of the dance team, also attends the University of Toledo. Since they first met in second grade through cheerleading, the two have remained close friends. Grace attended orientation with Bethany, and is excited to help her get involved on campus.
Kathy said that Grace has played a major role in helping Bethany become the young woman she is today. “If someone with special needs has that friend who helps them, that’s huge. It makes a big difference…Grace is a really special girl. We’re really lucky,” Kathy said.
Along with Grace’s help, Kathy credited the Toledo community for the support that’s been shown to Bethany. “Toledo always seemed kind of big to me, but after she won Homecoming Queen everyone was recognizing her…Toledo seemed really close after that,” Kathy said. “God just shines on that girl. She is so lucky.”