Recent Grad Success: Ethan Heller ’18 advocates for students with disabilities at Notre Dame

Created: June 27, 2019
Last Updated: December 17, 2019

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WASHINGTON, PA (June 27, 2019)—Washington & Jefferson College alumnus Ethan Heller ’18 is no stranger to personal challenges. Now a law student at University of Notre Dame Law School, he’s using skills learned as a W&J undergrad to help others overcome theirs, too.

In April, Ethan was featured in a profile on the American Bar Association’s website in which he talked about his learning disability and how he’s learned to work with it rather than against it. Ethan has a deficit in phonemic synthesis and a weakness in auditory closure, which means when he hears or reads something for the first time, his brain doesn’t process the information in an organized way.

Ethan wanted to speak about his learning disability to be an example for students who face similar challenges.

“I think it was important to give myself the platform to speak and let other law students know it’s not something to be embarrassed of,” he said. “The fact that the America Bar Association highlighted me and I was allowed to share how I approach those issues meant the world to me, and I hope it helps others to know they aren’t alone.”

Ethan learned to challenge himself at W&J. Through the Magellan Project, Ethan traveled to Ireland to work with former W&J visiting scholar and international peacemaker Mary Montague at her non-profit organization, TIDES. He became a leader on campus in multiple organizations, including the Mock Trial Team, and used his voice to help his classmates . Ethan served as a student ambassador, answering questions for prospective and new students about W&J as well as discussing his own experience with a learning disability and the support he received from the College.

He’s continued his campus involvement at Notre Dame, where he’s a program mentor for a club for undergraduate students with disabilities, and serves on a panel to answer questions about life and opportunities after graduation.

“The best advice I gave, I stole from Game of Thrones,” Ethan said. “If you have a so-called weakness, wear it like armor and no one can use it to hurt you. You have to own who you are. If you can look at a disability not as a hinderance, but a way to differentiate yourself, that’s important.”

Ethan currently has an internship with Prudential Global Investment Management in their global partners division.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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