May 2021 weareiowa.com
Sarah Boury earned a double major in family studies and social work. The University believes she is the first person with EA-TEF to graduate. Like most kids growing up, Sarah Boury was a "stinker" to her sister Laura and a bit of a handful for her parents Ernest and Nancy. But the typical worries most parents have about their kids were a lot more serious for this family as Sarah grew older. Sarah was born with one lung and a condition called tracheoesophageal fistula.
"The top side of the easophagus was a blind pouch," Ernest explained to Local 5's Eva Andersen. "It just formed a pouch and then the bottom half, instead of attaching to her easophagus, it attached to her windpipe, her trachea." When it comes to how many surgeries Sarah's had, Nancy said "countless." "If it involves going to the [operating room]... I can't even count the number," Nancy said.
But this never fazed the brave young woman, not even a little bit. "I was born going in and out of the hospital since birth, so it's not like it was anything new," Sarah said. On top of all of that, Sarah lost her hearing before her first birthday. Determined to go to school with her hearing peers, Sarah taught herself how to read lips. "It's quite tiring to do it all of the time, but I still managed to do it," Sarah said. Not all classmates could see in Sarah what she saw in herself. "Oftentimes I felt left out, and they didn't take the time to include me and talk to me," said Sarah.
But she pressed on, graduating from high school and setting herself up for college at the University of Northern Iowa. She started college in 2017. More challenges came up for the young woman while at UNI— she had to go back on a feeding tube. Another physical, and social, hurdle, but she stayed on track.
"Sarah's always expected a lot of herself," said Katie O'Brien, Sarah's mentor and friend from UNI. The American Sign Language professor noticed Sarah's resilience. "Sarah definitely fights against anybody telling her that she can't do something and certainly defies odds and expectations everywhere she goes," Katie said.
It's her passion that led her to walk across the stage at her college graduation earlier this month, becoming the first person with EA-TEF to graduate from UNI. "You felt just a sense of... she made it. She got through the one goal in life she's always had," Sarah's dad said. While her parents celebrate her degrees in family services and social work, Sarah is already moving on to her next goal— getting her master's degree. It's something she hopes will inspire others, with this added advice: "You can go far in life if you think about what you can do over what you can't do."