By Debra Kennard, Board of Directors
French philosopher Diderot wrote an essay Paradox of the Actor, which asserts great actors do not experience on stage the emotions they are displaying. One would have to agree this is possible when learning Vincent Fedorko played the on-stage role of Mr. Bennet, the patriarch in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, who ultimately would rather detach from the world than cope with it. Vincent’s relationship to his life seems the antithesis to Mr. Bennet’s, as his is a story of not only coping with struggle, but also working for success.
Vincent’s Project Know Us video shares a childhood spent understanding what made him different from so many around him and eventually figuring out how to harness his strengths and moderate his weaknesses. His experiences of family, including a consistently encouraging mother and a high school community that made him feel their concern for his success beyond the classroom, taught him the power of change motivated from within and supported by those around you.
Vincent’s high school years were occupied with managing his learning differences and understanding his body’s sensitivities to physical demands. They were also full of theater productions, swim meets, a part-time job, and participation in the Boy Scouts of America, from which he earned the highest rank of Eagle Scout. You can see in his video that the young man standing in his cap and gown holding a perfect attendance award and a diploma of graduation summa cum laude felt he could do whatever he wanted next.
In planning for college, an online search led Vincent to learn more about The Scholarship Foundation and their financial support for deserving students.
He confidently entered college and became a speech communications major. Vincent built a new network of connection with his campus community beyond the classroom and became a leader in several clubs, was selected as a Student Ambassador to the Office of the President, and is the Student Supervisor in the Office of Admissions, among others.
As Vincent nears the end of his college experience, he seems excited about the different possibilities ahead of him. He is attracted to non-profit work, motivational speaking, or event planning. At the heart of his interest is the chance to inspire people and help reframe notions of a disability mindset. He believes that, although unique, each Project Know Us story helps show a common theme to help make this change. “The stories are not a pity party. I see stories of having struggles and overcoming them.”
Vincent’s motivation for telling his story through Project Know Us is the same as his search for his post-college vocation. “I want people to know that whatever setbacks they have—financial, emotional, mental, physical—they can succeed.” No surprise he titled his video “Persistence.”
The exhibit Know Us: Stories of St. Louis Students Finding Their Way will be on display at the Missouri History Museum at 5700 Lindell, St. Louis through March 29, 2020. For more information about the project and the exhibit, visit sfstl.org/KnowUs.