Ariana “Ari” Meltzer-Bruhn, a current senior at Villanova University from Alexandria, Virginia is not only known as the sole founder of the rapidly growing campus group “LEVEL” but is also known as the groups backbone. Putting a mere idea into action, LEVEL began when Ariana cracked her cuboid bone in her right foot during soccer practice and was forced to spend a month on crutches. Crutches, however, limit mobility and the previous 10 minute trip from one side of campus to the other soon took 30. Although her foot was only a temporary disability, her daily struggle to perform everyday tasks opened her eyes to the day-to-day life of a person with permanent disabilities. Having a new outlook, she decided to partake in a 5K walk on crutches to help raise awareness on able-ism, little did she know that she was not the only competitor with a disability. A man in a wheelchair competed in the race as well, further enforcing the difference between temporary and permanent disabilities to Ari. After the race Ari knew something needed to change, so she decided to take her interest in able-ism to the next level. At a leadership conference she met Greg Hannah, Villanova’s academic advisor to students with physical disabilities and saw a potential home for her idea. Greg and Ari began to throw ideas around, starting to brainstorm names, funding, and goals of a foundation that would promote and raise awareness for able-ism, breaking down the barrier between the able bodied and the disabled. After many long nights in the office, the group LEVEL was created to help “Level the playing field” on Villanova’s campus.
Ariana returned her sophomore year and began to get her close friends involved to assist her in her endeavor. At the annual Villanova Activities Fair, she began to explain to Villanova students what LEVEL was and what she was trying to do. Expecting no more than 50 students to sign up or attend a meeting, they received interest from over 170 students. At the first meeting Ariana was overwhelmed with the positive feedback and growing size of the group. She knew that “once you get past the obvious differences, there is such an amazing venue for friendship.”
Over the years the group has done nothing but continue to thrive but not without a few mistakes, some growing pains, and many late nights and hard work behind the scenes. Nonetheless, Level has opened up a world of opportunities for this young woman who has already been named as one of Glamour Magazines: Top Ten College Women Reader’s Choice Finalist, and Villanova Magazines: Rising Star.
Despite her multitude of accomplishments, Ari notes that sometimes “passion finds you,” for never did she think that her idea of raising awareness for able-ism would consume her on such a large-scale. Even though Ari will find herself graduating in the spring, she knows that the special friendships that have been made while creating Level will be ones that last no matter where life takes this aspiring student. She has made clear that Level is her home, her imprint on Villanova, and she is more than curious to see what comes of the future.