The following was submitted to Radnor Patch for publication by Villanova University.
Villanova University student-run organization, LEVEL, a group focused on “leveling the playing field” and bridging the gap between students with various abilities and disabilities through education and teamwork, was named a national winner in Johnson & Johnson’s BE VITAL challenge video contest.
Johnson & Johnson will come to Villanova’s campus on January 16 to congratulate LEVEL for the work they do within the Villanova community and to present the organization with $5,000 to be used for inclusive activities, social engagement, and promoting “able-ism” awareness beyond Villanova’s borders.
“LEVEL’s hope is that students of all abilities embrace social acceptance and awareness for people with disabilities, and this dream has been brought to a national stage with this honor from Johnson & Johnson,” said Gregory Hannah, Advisor to Students With Physical Disabilities.
Founded in 2010 by Ariana Meltzer-Bruhn, ’14 CLAS, of Alexandria, Virginia, LEVEL’s goal is to make daily interactions all inclusive and to raise able-ism awareness at Villanova, and beyond. The organization believes a lack of understanding on campus, and in the world, about individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities leads to unjust differences in the way that people are treated and the opportunities available to them. LEVEL challenges all student members to grow internally by learning about others and in identifying shared abilities.
Since 2010, students involved with LEVEL have completed over 12,000 hours of service. LEVEL hosts a fall retreat, a spring Casino Night and other social events throughout the course of the academic year. Each week, more than 50 able-bodied students dedicate between one and four hours of one-on-one help to disabled students. LEVEL assistants help with writing papers by hand, typing papers, reading textbooks, organizing notes and materials for upcoming assessment pieces and helping with any additional tasks that are necessary to complete academic course work. Through this process, LEVEL assistants form lasting friendships with disabled students and gain a more global perspective of how to encounter, understand, and accept people of all abilities.
Johnson & Johnson created the BE VITAL challenge to reward college student organizations that are "vital" to their communities, the environment, or society. LEVEL entered the competition in November 2013 by submitting a two-minute video showcasing their organization's role in the community. The video was posted on the BE VITAL contest website with other entries from student organizations around the country, and was open to voting by the public. LEVEL’s video was one of just 10 videos with the most votes selected to move onto a semi-final round where it was judged by a group of Johnson & Johnson panelists and named a second-place winner.
“I am very pleased to see LEVEL as one of the winners of this year’s BE VITAL Challenge,” said Allison Davis, University Relations, Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. “It is a great example of a student led organization that is making a vital impact in their community.”