On Monday, April 13, cadets Taylor ‘21 and Ty ‘21 Sutton received the 2020 Aggie Spirit Award from the Texas A&M Faculty Senate. They were two of three students to receive this year’s award. Through a livestream of the Faculty Senate meeting on Zoom, Ty and Taylor were recognized by the Faculty Senate for receiving the award.
Dr. Summer Odom, who nominated Ty and Taylor for the Aggie Spirit Award, shared some of the reasons Ty and Taylor were nominated for this award. “Ty and Taylor embody the characteristics of this award. They always have a smile on their face and are a joy to be around. They’ve shown tremendous courage despite the great hardships they face,” said Dr. Summer Odom, a professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
The Aggie Spirit Award recognizes remarkable students who have demonstrated outstanding courage and determination in the face of adversity while attending Texas A&M. Students are nominated by a faculty member and letters of recommendation are collected supporting the student’s nomination. The Faculty Senate Executive Committee reviews all of the nomination letters and determines which students best meet the award criteria. As recipients of the Aggie Spirit Award, Ty and Taylor will each receive a monetary award. The monetary award is based on the amount collected from donations by faculty each year. Says Dr. Andrew Klein, Speaker of the Faculty Senate, “The Aggie Spirit Award is supported by the generosity of individual senators.”
Ty and Taylor, class of 2021, are from Melvin, Texas, a small farming community southeast of San Angelo. They are 5th generation farmers and ranchers, studying Agriculture and Leadership Development and are members of Corps Staff in the Corps of Cadets. Both Ty and Taylor have Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a disease that robs people of physical strength by affecting their motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, and takes away their ability to walk. Ty and Taylor are the first wheelchair-bound cadets to join the Corps of Cadets.
Said Taylor of being a 2020 Aggie Spirit Award recipient, “Having my efforts recognized by such a distinguished and valued professor [Dr. Odom] within my department is something for which I am truly grateful. I am so thankful to be considered for such an award. I strive to accomplish all I can, because I want to show others who are in a similar situation to mine that we can achieve higher goals and not let our own physical limitations define us, nor should we allow people to define what we can accomplish in life.”
Ty remarked, “My mission is to live a life of service, integrity, loyalty, respect, and challenge the status quo. I desire to encourage and motivate others who may have a similar disability to have the courage to be persistent, tenacious, and to expect to reach their fullest potential in life. We were all created to serve and everyone has something unique and innovative to bring to the world.”
Ty and Taylor always knew they wanted to attend Texas A&M. Though they continue to face and overcome adversity, there was little hesitation from Ty and Taylor to join the Corps of Cadets. “Despite the challenges and my outer appearance, that may appear as weakness, I have a strong mind,” says Ty. Taylor echoes that sentiment; “I wanted to prove that despite my limitations I could still find a way to be an active and successful cadet.”
They’ve both experienced personal growth and development because of their membership in the Corps. For Ty and Taylor, it isn’t just about what they gain from being a cadet. As is characteristic of Aggies, the core value of selfless service is present in everything Ty and Taylor do.
“Through being a cadet, I want to show and encourage others who are physically challenged and those who are not, to never give up because of their situation or because of the limits that people place on them,” commented Taylor.
Ty’s advice to those who may have disabilities and have a strong desire to join the Corps of Cadets is “do it. Don’t let your disability define you.”
By Amy Thompson, Corps of Cadets