The Spirit that is not Afraid

“I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid.” George Petrie carefully articulated these words to make the Auburn Creed and set a general standard for an Auburn man or woman. But to me, they embody the lifestyle of Auburn student, Michael Barrett.

Brilliant, ambitious, driven and incredibly kind are just a few words to sum up Michael. A freshman from Hoover, Alabama, Michael is taking Auburn University by storm, despite having Autism.GetFileAttachment

Michael was just like any other freshman that graced his presence on the Plains. He came in motivated and ready to conquer the world on that first day in August. But, most students get distracted by Netflix and the joys of college life by September. Unlike most, Barrett immediately immersed himself in an incredibly difficult pre-medicine major and a multitude of different clubs and activities.

When asked to tell about himself, Michael simply stated that he “was an outdoors-man” as well as explaining his love of “listening and performing music.”

Despite being sought after and having many other opportunities, Michael decided to call Auburn University home.

“Initially I had no plans to come to Auburn,” says Michael. “My father is an Auburn Alumni, and as you can imagine, I grew up immersed in Auburn’s culture. Over the years, I felt that Auburn was too much of a good thing and I planned to tour it with my father just as a means to appease him. But like a lot of people who come to tour here, I fell in love with it. It takes a certain type of person to be an Auburn man and it had been in front of me all along. Even though I had offers to go to other places, Auburn had an authenticity that other schools seemed to lack. The enthusiasm of Auburn students is unrivaled and I knew that I would come to love Auburn as much as it seemed to come to love me.”

Auburn sure does love Michael Barrett. Michael immediately jumped into serving at Auburn by joining a vast range of extracurricular activities. Activities include the Auburn University Marching Band Drumline, Honors College, University Program Council, Freshman Leadership Program, Alpha Epsilon Delta and the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.

IMG_1088“I got involved right off the bat at Auburn,” says Barrett. “I was really involved in high school. There were times this past fall where I would lose a lot of sleep, but the skills I learned in high school really helped me in this transition.”

Barrett had to juggle rigorous mental discipline exercise at marching band practice, bouncing from one extra-curricular activity to the next and most importantly making the prestigious grades that are expected of a member of the Auburn University Honors College. All of which he does without complaint or note of his disability. He highly credits the Office of Accessibility.

“A lot of people believe disabilities are taboo subjects,” says Barrett. “In truth, I can do everything any normal person can do, except I go about doing it a little differently. Autism doesn’t affect your physical nature, rather the nature in which I think is altered. Just like with any

person growing up, it was a rough transition getting comfortable within my own skin, but as time went on I was able to assimilate into society and become increasingly more social along the way, a feature that Autism inhibits.”

“The Office of Accessibility does an incredible job of making sure students can reach out to them,” says Barrett. “There are electronic ways to reach out, alternate ways to send in applications and the process of applying is very simple.”

The Office of Accessibility is an office within Auburn University that strives to collaborate for an inclusive and equitable environment. This can be anything from course accessibility, to transportation, to technology accommodations.

“One thing Auburn University can work on as a whole is making sure the professors that students with disabilities deal with understand that there is more to disability than physical disabilities,” says Barrett. “There are mental disabilities, where a disability may not be visible to the eye. If professors have had students in the past who took advantage of disability accommodations, it often hurts the entire disabled community.”

Barrett is passionate about pouring into these types of programs and has even joined the Freshman Leadership Program, All for Auburn that works to change disability policy and foster friendship with individuals with disabilities.

“With Michael you would never know he has a disability,” says Emily Knowling, the director of the All for Auburn program. “He is incredibly devoted to what he does and was always one of the first to speak up and offer his help, even though he’s one of the busiest with all that he’s involved in. He has an amazing ability to relate to people and he always calmed me down about things by his willingness to help and solve problems.”

Barrett is the epitome of an Auburn man that strives to make Auburn University a better place than where he found it. With only one year on the Plains down and three more to go, Barrett is sure to keep inspiring others with his “spirit that is not afraid”.


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