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Sophomore creates SOCI-ABLES as a supportive club for students with disabilities and an educational resource for the campus community

Apr 14, 2023
by Madison Sloan

Before he arrived at Flagler College, sophomore Peter Mankin said he was worried his adjustment from high school to college would be especially difficult.

“When I first came, I felt like I was going to do a little bit poor,” Mankin said. “I didn't have enough confidence in myself.” 

But Mankin’s doubt quickly faded as he realized he could use his own positive experiences working with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) and acclimating to life at Flagler to help other students with disabilities engage in the campus community.  

“When Peter told me he wanted to start this club, we started to define what that meant,” Phil Pownall, director of the DRC said. “What did the club mean to him? And what did he want to try to get out of it?” 

Mankin said his decision to attend Flagler came down to the support he received from Pownall and the DRC as a perspective student. So, in founding the club SOCI-ABLES during the fall of 2022, he was inspired to build upon the support and resources available for students with disabilities and provide educational opportunities for peers looking to learn more. 

Mankin and Pownall at a DRC tabling event
Mankin and Pownall at a DRC tabling event

“Many other schools have disability resource centers, but when I met Phil, he was the only person that I could trust, and we had very good interactions,” Mankin said. 

As a new campus resource, Mankin said his hope with SOCI-ABLES was to create a space for students with disabilities to come together and participate in the community while also helping other students better understand their experiences. 

“What I wanted to do was provide a leadership opportunity for myself to see if we can learn how to help these students build social skills and interact with other people so that they can feel included in a campus that can treat them supportively,” Mankin said. 

As the club’s advisor and point of contact for collaboration with the DRC, Pownall developed a mentorship with Mankin. He said he witnessed Mankin’s leadership skills develop firsthand. After joining the President’s Leadership Academy, Mankin decided to utilize his leadership skills to create this new social club on campus. 

“I think that he's doing what we want students to do at Flagler, and that is to take what you learn and apply it,” Pownall said. 

Mankin believes SOCI-ABLES will allow other students to learn from the club’s members in order to understand their perspective and what they go through with their disabilities. 

“I think people who do not have disabilities often misunderstand the concept of a disability and they often create stereotypes,” Mankin said.  

The club has already hosted numerous educational events including, a discussion about “How Disability Is Perceived on the Media,” trivia night, and Flagler bingo. But Mankin believes SOCI-ABLES' most successful event was the tabling fair they co-hosted for Disability Awareness Month on the West Lawn. They even created immersive activities to model for students what certain experiences with a disability can feel like. 

Pownall instructing Mankin on how to use a white cane while he walks blindfolded.
Pownall instructing Mankin on how to use a white cane while he walks blindfolded.

“That’s also part of the club- to both make a welcome space and inclusionary space for students with disabilities,” Pownall said. “But also, to make an educational space so that students who don't identify as having a disability can get to learn that people with disabilities are still just people.” 

Not only did establishing SOCI-ABLES create an invaluable community and resource for his peers, but it has also helped Mankin to continue to build his confidence and create a network of friends who understand one another.  

“Starting a new club and making new friends on campus made me feel like an enlightened member of the community,” Mankin said. “It made me feel connected to what students want on the campus. But it also helped me understand how to get to know each other, how to socialize with others and how to better understand the routine.”  

Pownall said Mankin is a persistent advocate for inclusivity and is always willing to rise to the occasion. He is confident that Mankin will continue to grow as a leader while providing a supportive space for all students.  

“There is an idea of Flagler culture, and if all students are considered part of the culture, then those idiosyncrasies that involve disability should be part of that culture too,” Pownall said.  

Soci-Ables group photo
Soci-Ables group photo

For incoming students making the often-daunting transition into college, Pownall hopes that this club will continue to develop as an accessible and approachable network to make their adjustment easier.   

“This can be a gateway for students with disabilities,” Pownall said. “When they come here, there will be a place that they can feel welcome. And Peter has always been a great advocate for the idea of inclusion.”  

When a perspective student with disabilities is worried about getting involved and meeting other students, Pownall knows the club is there as a resource. He said he can rely on Peter to welcome them warmly and make sure they know SOCI-ABLES is a support system for them.  

“I encourage every student who is afraid of joining a club to join SOCI-ABLES,” Pownall said. “Because once you meet Peter you won’t be scared anymore.”  


Whether you are looking to sign up for SOCI-ABLES or want to see a list of their upcoming events, make sure to check out the club’s Saints Connect page and Instagram account. 

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