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“I cried” | Students with learning disabilities get into UT-Knoxville sororities for the first time

Three students are the first from the FUTURE program to be accepted into a UT sorority.
Three students are the first from the program to be accepted into a UT sorority
Three students are the first from the program to be accepted into a UT sorority(Emma Burgin, FUTURE Program Coordinator.)
Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 3:28 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 20, 2021 at 6:27 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Three University of Tennessee students who are in the FUTURE Program were accepted into a UT sorority.

The FUTURE program helps students with “intellectual and developmental disabilities” make a successful transition from high school to adult life. The three students are the first from the program to be accepted into a UT sorority.

Student Elise McDaniel told WVLT News she cried tears of joy when she opened her envelope.

“I cried ... probably just happy tears,” McDaniel said.

The students went through the same process as their peers, thus creating an inclusive and fair environment.

Rush was held via Zoom and the girls said that since they do not have sisters in their families, this is their first sisterhood they get to experience.

“I was so happy,” Zoe Messer, a sophomore, said.

They’re already popular on campus- people recognized them from their TikTok video that, as of Friday afternoon, had more than 130k likes, 7,680 shares and nearly 3,000 comments.

Joining a club on campus is just one of many strides students in the FUTURE program have made in recent semesters. Program Coordinator Emma Burgin said more than a dozen are living on their own for the first time, which has given the students a taste of what it’s like outside of college.

“Like any parent, it’s kind of like you have to let them fly. We use the term, “dignity of risk.” There’s dignity in taking risks in life and being able to learn from mistakes and missteps and we want that for our students, too,” Burgin said.

Elise McDaniel, a senior, was accepted into Alpha Omicron Pi.

Faith Irwin, a sophomore, was accepted into Zeta Tau Alpha.

Zoe Messer, also a sophomore, was accepted into Alpha Delta Pi.

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