Kicking off our first interview is Jake Lepper. He is a previous graduate of UW-Madison and we are grateful to have him on Spotlight Interviews! The interview is about 2 years old but no less relevant. Here we go!
“My name is Jake, I am a senior studying legal studies and criminal justice. I am originally from Milwaukee. I’m in the final processes of getting hired by the University Police. I’ve wanted to be a police officer since I was six. My dad’s a police officer in Milwaukee and has been doing it since 1991. For fun, I like to play saxophone and read mystery books.
I worked for McBurney for two years. My freshman year of college, I was diagnosed with OCD, and that’s what made me want to work with McBurney and deal with disability advocacy stuff. For a long time, I didn’t think I could be a police officer for a long time because you just don’t connect those two things. My freshman year was tough, dealing with cleaning a lot and dealing with those sorts of thoughts, but after going through intensive therapy and taking medication, it has been more manageable. I think there’s a stigma that people with disabilities are leading less fulfilling lives, and that’s not true at all. It’s just something that’s part of your identity as a whole and doesn’t affect what you’re capable of achieving. That’s why I really liked working for McBurney, because you can break down the stigmas, especially surrounding mental illness, because people don’t understand that it’s just as real. It’s important that people realize that if you’re dealing with a disability you have good days, you have bad days, or what have you, and it doesn’t stop you from leading a fulfilling life. It is hard for people to understand at times when you’re dealing with something like that, so a lot of times, people just don’t deal with it. They just write you off as someone who could be more of a friend or acquaintance or something. I don’t talk to many people from freshman year anymore, and I feel that my actions due to my disability were a huge contributor of that. As opposed to trying to understand what you’re going through, people write you off. People don’t try to understand. It’s too much work to be friends with you.
But I’ve had some really good experiences on campus, too. When I’ve gone out and talked to people, most people are really open to learning and breaking down their assumptions and stereotypes. I think the biggest thing, is it has to be something you can talk and joke about – disability can’t be this mysterious thing. It’s also all about getting support. Madison has a great support system with UHS and the McBurney center. I think we’re really lucky because other schools don’t have accommodations specialists like we do here. It’s inspired me to want to become a police officer more because I think there are people that need help. So many people are dealing with mental illness that could be healed in a facility rather than a prison. I want to be a police officer that talks to people and help them rather than putting them in jail, especially people who are mental ill.”
– Jake Lepper