Alumnus Declan Boran-Ragotzy ‘14 gets his inspiration from the arts and its ability to take people on a new journey. Now he is using the arts as a means for his own journey to create a more inclusive and integrated experience for individuals with disabilities. In using storytelling through the arts, he is constantly allowing his students to tell their stories and giving them the opportunity to explore what they are capable of accomplishing.
Boran-Ragotzy ‘14 has always remained positive throughout his life and has had to overcome physical challenges, providing him experiences that fuel his work as a special education teacher with the Milton School District, but also program director and president of No Limits LDA. No Limits is a nonprofit dance organization for individuals ages 4 and up with disabilities to create an inclusive and integrated dance experience for everyone.
“Just because they have a disability doesn’t mean they can’t do things,” he said, “They are able to stretch their arms straight and point their feet.” Boran-Ragotzy wants to bring more attention to what they are able to do well instead of focusing on the deficits. “We need to build them up so they can be released into society as wonderful contributing members.”
In 2017, Boran-Ragotzy and Tanya Adkins, studio owner/instructor of Life Dance Academy in Janesville, discussed the possibility of building a dance program for people with disabilities. Adkins researched the certification process, and Boran-Ragotzy later completed 18 hours of online training in a certification program that teaches instructors how to blend the needs of students with training and movement.
In starting the dance program, he also wanted it to be affordable because he knew the financial responsibility that comes with a disability, so he didn’t want financials to be the reason families didn’t participate. In using his own experiences and training, Boran-Ragotzy has been able to connect with students both in the classroom and studio to help them realize their potential.
Boran-Ragotzy himself was born with right-sided hemiparesis, a cleft (hole) in the left side of his brain. As a result, when he uses the left side of his body, the right side will automatically try to mimic it. In addition, he also has ectodermal dysplasia, which means he only has 12 actual teeth in his mouth.
He shared, “Growing up I had a lot of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. One of the reasons I went to Carroll was because my orthodontist was in the Milwaukee area so when it was getting time to do more implant surgeries it was easier to be at a spot that wasn’t so far away.”
Despite being faced with his own physical challenges, Boran-Ragotzy adjusted to life on campus and credited the Walter Young Center on campus for helping him throughout his time at Carroll. But he also got involved in student activities that he enjoyed and attributes those experiences to helping boost his career now. While at Carroll he studied Spanish with a double minor in education and fine arts administration. During his time on campus, he was involved in various student organizations such as the theatre program, Latin American Student Organization (LASO), and Admissions Office tour guide. Additionally, he shared his spirit at sporting events and other campus happenings by suiting up as the college mascot, Pio Pete.
Since graduating from Carroll, he has continued to keep himself constantly busy in an array of jobs and community involvement. In addition to going back to school at Edgewood College in Madison to receive his master's degree in education, he taught for a year and a half at Saint Gregory the Great in Milwaukee. Shortly thereafter, he received an opportunity in the theatre community to help direct a show at Janesville Parker High School in his hometown. Currently, while teaching in Milton and directing No Limits group, Boran-Ragotzy also serves as a board member for his local theatre, Rock River Repertory Theatre Company.
As No Limits continues to grow, Boran-Ragotzy looks forward to seeing the continued spark between those with disabilities and those without at the studio.
He shared, “The arts are so inspiring in so many ways just because it allows for an audience member to take this experience they don’t otherwise get to have. They get to see other people’s perspectives and get to escape from their reality, so to speak, and there’s powerful messages wherever you go.”