The Sandspur: Valedictorians share inspiration, tips

The Sandspur: Valedictorians share inspiration, tips

Elizabeth was featured in Rollins College’s newspaper, The Sandspur, along with her four fellow valedictorians, where they shared inspiration and tips about their time at Rollins.

Valedictorians share inspiration, tips


Elizabeth Bonker

My mission in life is to ensure communication is available to all non-speakers with autism. Rollins faculty, administration, and students have supported me during my four years studying social innovation and English so I can be an effective advocate. Dr. Jay encouraged my interest in public policy and Professor Balzac wrote a letter to Representative Stephanie Murphy about my advocacy work.

My greatest inspiration has come from my time on Capitol Hill advocating for non-speakers. In the summer of 2019, Representative Murphy’s office arranged meetings for me with a dozen lawmakers and their staff. I came ready to speak with them about one issue: GED access. Pearson Corporation administers the GED and routinely denies the accommodations typers need to take the GED and receive a high school equivalency diploma. Senator Rick Scott believed in my cause and his staff supported my discussions with Pearson Corporation to allow these needed accommodations.

Being honored as a valedictorian means a lot to me because I am trying to raise academic expectations for all non-speakers with autism. After I graduate, I will continue my advocacy work through my new nonprofit, Communication 4 ALL. We will use public policy, music, and social media to change the way the world sees non-speakers. Additionally, we will work to ensure all non-speaking students have effective communication in school, a right guaranteed to them in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

My advice to current undergraduates would be to remember our motto: Life is for Service. Find your passion and use it to serve others who are not as fortunate as we are. Also, it helps to study!

Seriously, we have such a rich environment for learning here at Rollins, with small class sizes and caring professors. I have gotten to know all my professors by meeting with them outside of class. They have taken the time to get to know me despite the slowness of my one-finger typing. Every class has been incorporated into my life mission, from anthropology to education to theater to English to statistics to film. I’m going to greatly miss the kindness and support I have received at Rollins.

My fellow students: Appreciate these four special years in this special place—it will go by quickly.


Elizabeth holding a bouquet of flowers


Read the full story here.