Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Far from home, Combs finds independence at UA

Far from home, Combs finds independence at UA

At 10 a.m. the girls were given permission to open the envelopes. An outpouring of shrill joy drowned the stadium and the surrounding areas. Combs discovered she was invited to join Kappa Delta sorority and smiled. Throngs of girls poured into the tunnels of Bryant Denny in search of their new sorority letters. Combs hastily, but slower than the others, navigated the crowds with a walker, which had became an inherent part of her life since birth. She found her letters, KD, and a golf cart, adorned with signs, “We Love Becca” and “Welcome to KD,” waiting to take her through the crowds.

Combs was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that effects muscle movement, and she has used a walker to help with mobility since she was three. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, she decided to come to The University of Alabama after a campus visit.

Despite the protests of her parents, who originally wanted her to stay home, Combs moved eight hours and 450 miles away
 to Tuscaloosa.

“This is where I felt most at home,” she said. “I was 
really nervous.”

Combs had never been away from home for more than four or five days, and her parents and three younger sisters had always helped her operate around the house. But when her parents dropped her off at Ridgecrest South on a humid August day, she realized she was going to be forced to learn how to do everything on her own – navigating the dining halls, moving efficiently between classes and obtaining basic housekeeping skills.

“I didn’t know how to use the vacuum or use the microwave,” she said.

She said most people are very helpful. Lakeside Dinning employees often help her to get her meals, and many people hold the door for her when she goes to and from buildings.

“I don’t really see myself as different from anybody else,” she said.

Her philosophy professor, Seth Bordner, described her as “the kind of student you want in your class, because you know she is going to be ready to talk.”

Bordner met Combs during her freshman spring semester. He said she approached him early in the year worried about finishing her exams in time because the Office of Disability services was currently out of space for test taking. When it came time to take the first exam, Combs finished it early.

“She was out the door in about half the time,” Bordner said. “Even if she wrote slower, she finished before most of the class.”

Combs quickly eased her own worries regarding her success. While interested in philosophy, she said she plans to major in special education. In high school and during her summers, Combs worked with special needs 
students in the Charlotte area. Her disability does not 
control her life, but she said it has given her a more 
comprehensive and accepting view of the world.

“It makes me more aware,” she said. “It’s important for everyone with a disability to feel they can have as normal a life as possible.”

Combs grew acquainted with multiple sorority women during her freshman year. She said she thought about going through the recruitment process before she began school, but ultimately decided against it. At the time, she said she wasn’t sure if it was the right decision for her. But with a year of college under her belt and newly-formed friendships, she said she grew increasingly more interested in the opportunity. The women she met “seemed like they really enjoyed doing it and it was a good segue into campus involvement,” she said.

“I had heard some horror stories,” she said. “But I felt like I would regret it if I didn’t [try].”

The day before Ice Water Teas, the first party round in the recruitment process, Morgan Williams, a senior member of Kappa Delta, was approached by the chapter 
president about speaking to Combs during the Ice Water Tea party. Williams said she eagerly agreed and, after 
over 40 parties, met Combs during the last party of 
the round.

“I can honestly say I had the best conversation with her over anyone I had talked to both days of Ice Water Teas, “ Williams said. “It was actually a conversation of substance. I learned more about her than I had gotten to learn about any other girl because, the only way I can put it is she challenged me to want to raise the bar on our conversation. She challenged me to want to talk about something that actually mattered.”

On Bid Day, Williams sat on the golf cart waiting to welcome the young woman who had completely 
captivated her attention during the week.

“There is so much more to her,” Williams said. “It gives me hope for the years to come knowing that there are people like Becca who are going to rise up, be leaders in our sorority and challenge girls that being uncomfortable 
is okay.”

Combs said she adores every minute of her new adventure and would not trade her experiences for anything. Although self-described as an introvert, she said she was excited to share that now she feels completely independent and looks forward to paving her own way 
while in college.

“I can also vacuum now,” she said. “Just as long as I use the lightweight ones, but I can do it myself.”

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