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UT sororities welcome students with disabilities as officials push for more Greek Life inclusion

Three students with disabilities joined sororities at the University of Tennessee during one of the biggest days in Greek Life — Bid Day.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Bid day is the biggest celebration for young women in Greek life across the nation.

At the University of Tennessee, Greek Like students wanted to make more efforts to ensure people with disabilities had the chance to join sororities. After a year of effort on the University of Tennessee campus, students with disabilities joined sororities.

UTK sophomores Zoe Messer and Faith Irwin as well as senior Elise McDaniel became the first three FUTURE students to accept bids to sororities last weekend.

McDaniel said she couldn't sleep the night before she opened her invitation to join her "forever home."

"Before bid day, I tried to sleep," McDaniel said. "I was really nervous because I wasn't sure if I would get a bid." 

@utkfuture

Our girls got to participate in sorority recruitment for the first time ever at the University of Tennessee! #inclusion #sorority #zta #aopi #adpi

♬ original sound - UT FUTURE Program

The UT FUTURE program works directly with Best Buddies UTK to create one-to-one friendships between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

FUTURE outreach coordinator Amber Carmody said many students with disabilities are often left out of these kinds of experiences.

"We are still fighting each and every day for doors to be opened," Carmody said. "That's part of what FUTURE is. We are opening doors for people. Although I was never in a sorority, our girls were interested in it."

McDaniel said this is her last year in college and she wanted to make it the best experience yet.

"It's my last chance to do things, but I still want to make new friends and have the experience," McDaniel said.

McDaniel joined Alpha Omicron Pi. She happily wears her letters every day. She said that she wanted to remind people that even if they have a disability, it shouldn't define them.

"I want to be treated like everyone else," McDaniel said.

Irwin joined Zeta Tau Alpha. Carmody said Irwin knew ZTA was her first choice to go to. Messer joined Alpha Delta Pi. She said she is happy to finally be a part of Greek life.

"The best part about being in a sorority is getting to know friends and getting to talk to people," Messer said.

When she opened her bid day card, she felt a rush of emotions.

"I was excited and happy," Messer said. "It felt pretty good."

McDaniel said she believes there need to be more inclusion efforts in Greek life across many universities.

"I think all schools should allow people with disabilities to be in sororities," said McDaniel

McDaniel and Messer are both excited to meet their news sisters, make friends, go out and take on leadership positions.

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