When Embry-Riddle student Robert Consolo wrote “To be the best, you must handle the worst” on his arms, he thought of the car accident that nearly stole his dreams of working for NASA.
Consolo was one of six students selected to share his story to an audience during Dear World Live on Nov. 29, an interactive event that gave students the opportunity to take portraits by writing messages on their skin that reflect their core beliefs.
Consolo, who is earning bachelor’s degrees in Commercial Space Operations and Human Factors, said he knew as early as elementary school that he wanted to become an astronaut someday and he worked hard in pursuit of that dream. But right before his freshman year of high school, Consolo was in a car accident that left his single mother with a spinal cord disability and his sister injured. The money that his family set aside for college soon went to cover medical expenses.
Consolo worked several jobs during high school to help offset the medical bills. He continued to pursue his dream of working in the aerospace industry and was accepted to Embry-Riddle. Consolo recently completed an internship at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
“When I got on stage it was amazing to see people’s reactions and how it resonated with them,” Consolo said. “It was very significant to be able to share my story and I felt passionate that I could influence someone else to know that they are not alone and can do anything they set their mind to.”
Dear World began in New Orleans as photographic love notes to the city and has grown into a traveling interactive event with portraits published in over 30 countries, including refugee camps in Jordan. During the two-day event at Embry Riddle, students had the opportunity to take part in a photo shoot that highlighted the identity of the Embry-Riddle campus. During the shoot, Consolo and six other students were chosen to share their stories on stage during an unveiling of nearly 200 student portraits.
“By the end of the night you realize that through our stories there is actually more that brings us together than keeps us apart,” said Jonah Evans, executive producer for Dear World. “We all have stories and voices that deserve to be heard.”
The event was also important for uniting the campus community, said Jessica Searcy, director of Student Leadership and Engagement.
“Dear World helped to remind us that our community is made up of so many diverse individuals who each have their own story—their own thoughts, feelings, perspective, and journey,” she said. “I’ve always known that Embry-Riddle was made up of uniquely passionate individuals, but the strength and courage of our students, faculty, and staff was brought to light over the past several days in a really special way.”
Human Factors student Christopher Marshall also shared his story behind the phrase “I made it thru. Keep Pushing.”
“I wrote that because I wanted to encourage everyone to keep going regardless of what they are going through. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Any obstacle you face, you can get past it,” Marshall said.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, is a nonprofit, independent institution offering more than 80 baccalaureate, master’s and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Aviation, Business, Engineering and Security & Intelligence. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., through the Worldwide Campus with more than 125 locations in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and through online programs. The university is a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. For more information, visit erau.edu, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and facebook.com/EmbryRiddleUniversity, and find expert videos at YouTube.com/EmbryRiddleUniv.