By Tiffani Nichols
Students, family and faculty united together for uplifting words, good company and fine food for the 9th annual University Accessibility Center (UAC) Awards Banquet on Wednesday evening.
UAC?s goal is to assure that BYU students facing disabilities are given equal access to educational opportunities.
The theme of the evening was to ?Rise to the high ground of excellence,? a quote by Gordon B. Hinckley.
During the banquet, 14 UAC students received $1,500 scholarships for their achievements. Janet S. Scharman, the Student Life Vice President, read biographies of scholarship recipients before presenting them with their awards.
The evening was to recognize the courage and remarkable skills of the students, Scharman said.
UAC additionally recognized two BYU faculty, two UAC volunteers and two UAC employees, along with Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., for contributions they have made to the UAC program.
One of the faculty award recipients was Monte Swain, an accounting professor at BYU. ?I?m simultaneously proud and humble,? Swain said. ?I couldn?t be more proud of the students. They?re tougher and braver than I?ll ever be.?
Dr. Michael Brooks, director of UAC, said planning starts early for the UAC banquet. The evening wouldn?t have been possible without founders Keith and Carol Jenkins.
During the dinner, BYU Jazz Voices entertained the attendees. Incorporating scat, they sang a jazzy rendition of ?Come, Come Ye Saints? as an interpreter rhythmically signed the lyrics. Afterwards, the WSC Ballroom rang with both audible and silent applause.
Kristen Cox, the executive director for the Utah Workforce Services, addressed the audience as the keynote speaker.
As a blind politician, Cox spoke firsthand about how disabilities can be a barrier to success if negative attitudes allow.
Cox mentioned that there are two types of people: there are those who ask ?I wonder if that person can do this?? and there are those that ask ?I wonder how that person will do this??
?It starts with assessing how it can be done, not if it can be done,? Cox said.
She mentioned two important things for everyone to remember, no matter what struggles they face in life. Individuals need to have high expectations for themselves, she said. People must also use accountability to be self-determined and driven by eternal goals.
?We have the ability to choose how we?re going to live our lives but not always to choose our circumstances,? Cox said.
James Stokes, a freshman studying history and English, enjoyed the environment of the evening.
?The biggest thing I got out of tonight is that people like me can do anything they put their minds to,? Stokes said. ?I forget that sometimes but it?s important to remember.?
At the beginning of the evening, President Cecil O. Samuelson mentioned the importance of helping others.
?There is no one that doesn?t have a disability,? President Samuelson said. ?Some are more obvious than others. We have a tremendous responsibility to help others.?
UAC?s office is located at 2170 WSC. For more information on UAC services, go to uac.byu.edu.