UNL sophomore overcomes daily trials with creativity, determination

When Julia Sullivan is outside of her hometown of Aurora, she is often times greeted with stares.

She is different and she knows it. People doing double takes is nothing new to her.

“Many times kids will ask what’s wrong with me and their parents will shush them. I wish that they would just ask me questions,” she said. “I would rather them be curious about me than afraid.”

Sullivan was born with no arms and no legs. The doctor’s didn’t predict it during the pregnancy nor could they explain why.

Her parents treated her like they would any other child. Sullivan is one of three siblings — one brother and one sister. Growing up, her siblings helped her conquer small challenges like playing the piano and climbing the stairs. This is a pattern she continued throughout her life.

“I can do a lot more than you probably think I can,” she said.

Dance. Cheerleading, Leadership Groups. National Honor Society. Soccer. Softball.   Piano. Sorority. Sullivan has proved that were there is a will there is always a way, though she has to do things differently than most.

Michaela Larsen met Julia in Kindergarten. They have been friends ever since.   Williams can describe her best friend in one word: “driven.”

“When she does something she does it wholeheartedly,” Larsen said. “If she can’t do something she will work and work until she can.”

Sullivan’s drive to keep going is a quality that Larsen has always admired about her friend.

This year Sullivan is adjusting to life on UNL’s campus. She transferred last year from Benedictine College in hopes of experiencing all that a big university could offer.

As a sophomore, Sullivan struggles with everything that comes with being a college student. However, it is the daily struggles that frustrate her the most.

“It is strange that I am able to do all these crazy things like swimming, but I can’t even get myself dressed in the morning,” she said. “There are some things that I just have to accept that I can’t do on my own.”

Sullivan has caretakers that help her with these daily challenges. The caretakers come to her dorm room in Selleck every morning and night. They help her get dressed, go to the bathroom and other tasks that most wouldn’t think about.

Complete independence is something Sullivan wishes she had.

“I wish I could do all the simple, everyday things, so I wouldn’t have to rely on other people to do them for me,” she said.

However, with these challenges come unique solutions.

How do you type with no arms? Julia uses the nubs of her arms.

How do you open doors? Julia has a special remote that opens them for her.

How do you text with no fingers? Julia uses her nose.

How to you kick a soccer ball with no legs? Julia uses the tires of her wheelchair.

“She always finds a way,” Larsen said.

Sullivan’s next adventure will be studying abroad. Her parents wouldn’t let her travel abroad in high school, but now they are realizing that they can’t hold her back much longer.

“I have been waiting for so long and I just want to go,” Sullivan said, excitedly. “I think my parents are realizing that I’m going to be on my own soon and they need to let me go.”

Although this concept scares her parents, Sullivan approaches the new experience like she has with every other: no fear.

“There are a lot of people who think I can’t do things,” she said. “I have just learned to prove them all wrong.”

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