‘My disability is not a curse… It is a gift’

December 18, 2019 //

Fox School of Business legal studies major and North Philadelphia native Shawn Aleong leads charge in advocating for persons with disabilities

Shawn Aleong, a legal studies major from North Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA—Shawn Aleong smiles as he walks through Temple University’s Alter Hall. He stops and says hello to faculty members. He greets friends as they pass by.

For Aleong, this is home. It’s the environment where he thrives. But he also knows that not all places are so welcoming. Especially for people like himself.

“As an African American with a disability, sometimes I’ll be looked at strangely,” says Aleong, who is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in legal studies in the Fox School of Business. “Or one time, I went right into a store, and they started to treat me differently once I opened my mouth.”

Aleong, 31, lives with cerebral palsy. The North Philadelphia native has been judged and discriminated against, and he’s determined to do his part to make society more inclusive.

“For me, my disability is not a curse. It’s not a handicap. It is a gift so that I can help implement change. Whether that be in policies in business, in finance, in law or in advocacy, I know I’m making a change,” says Aleong, who is also minoring in real estate and finance.

Inspiring change drives Aleong. It’s why he’s at Temple University, why he’s pursuing a degree in legal studies and why he eventually hopes to go on to law school to become a disability rights lawyer.

“The system has to be changed for people with disabilities across the board. I said to myself, ‘How can I help change the system?’ That’s what brought me to legal studies,” Aleong says. “I have gone to Washington, D.C., Harrisburg and all over to advocate for people with disabilities because we cannot call this a great nation unless we have every opportunity that other people get.”

This passion has defined Aleong’s time at Temple since first enrolling in the school’s Academy For Adult Learning, a four-semester certificate program for young adults with disabilities, in 2014. Aleong joined the university as a full-time undergraduate student in 2018, taking advantage of every opportunity to lobby for persons with disabilities.

Last year, he studied in Silicon Valley for a week, enrolling in a course that covered digital and alternative financial services like artificial intelligence, the digital finance ledger Blockchain and the digital currency Bitcoin. His goal was to see how fintech could be used to serve people with disabilities.  

Aleong also recently launched his own business, The Devon Group, to create training programs on inclusion for persons with disabilities. So far, he’s trained more than 400 people, and he hopes businesses and organizations will adopt these programs in an effort to create stronger work environments.

He has also spoken at events for Senator Bob Casey and has testified in front of Philadelphia City Council. In February, he will attend the New Hampshire Democratic primary where he will continue to advocate for his peers. He’s eager to hear from candidates on how they plan to foster a more inclusive environment for persons with disabilities.

“The fight is not over yet,” Aleong says. “It’s still going on. I’m going to be here, fighting for this cause, until the very end.”

About the Fox School of Business

The vision of Temple University’s Fox School of Business is to transform student lives, develop leaders and impact our local and global communities through excellence and innovation in education and research. 

The Fox School’s research institutes and centers and 200+ full-time faculty provide access to market-leading technologies and foster a collaborative and creative learning environment that offers more than curriculum—it offers an experience. Coupled with its leading student services, the Fox School ensures that its graduates are fully prepared to enter the job market.  

The school’s knowledge-creating research faculty affords it the flexibility and responsiveness to address the needs of industry and generate courses and programs in emerging fields of study. As a leader in business research, the Fox School values interdisciplinary approaches and translational research that advance actionable insights to solve real-world problems. Our research informs an adaptive curriculum, supports innovation in teaching and prepares students for the changing nature of work.

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