by Kae Dennert
15 in 100,000 people have Type 1 Diabetes. That amount makes up 1.3 million people in the United States alone. Cal Poly Humboldt students have recently come together to create a safe space for those with Type 1 Diabetes and their friends and family to meet and be able to share their journeys with each other. The Diabetes Link is a newer organization that helps campuses set up chapters of their own to help empower and support college students at their schools. November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and is important to empowerment and taking time to celebrate those who have to struggle in their day-to-day life in ways people wouldn’t typically think about.
Diabetes Type 1 is a disease that targets your pancreas. Diabetic people cannot produce their own insulin enzymes. Someone with diabetes must monitor their blood sugar, and inject insulin or glucagon to raise or lower their blood sugar when needed. It is a constant that someone has to monitor at all times for the rest of their life.
Students Nat Allen, Zach Sherman and Niz Kears, who all have Type 1, came together to start the Cal Poly Humboldt chapter, and have hosted two meetings this school year. One was a pizza social for everyone to meet each other and start building connections, and the second was a dessert night where everyone brainstormed ideas they had to help provide more education and knowledge to the campus.
Nat Allen, one of the founders of the chapter and a sophomore in biology, has had Type 1 for 13 years. She acknowledges how important having a community is to having diabetes. Allen strives to be what she needed when she was diagnosed: a role model.
“I wanted to help start the Diabetes Link because having a community of other diabetics is super important to me,” Allen said. “I have had diabetes for almost 13 years and being able to talk to other diabetics has always been something that helps me.”
Allen says that it is important to talk about diabetes and not keep it as an unknown. Talking about it helps destigmatize and makes others more comfortable with their diagnosis. November celebrates those with this diagnosis, and helps spread awareness to the disease.
“Talking to others that truly understand the disease makes me feel seen, and allows me to talk about struggles that no one else would understand,” Allen said. “When I was first diagnosed, my parents made sure that I got to meet a lot of other diabetics to show me that diabetes would not stop me from doing anything.”
Noah King, a sophomore studio art major, has been going to all of the meetings and is glad to have a space on campus for himself and others. He was diagnosed with Type 1 at a young age, and hasn’t had many opportunities to connect with other people with diabetes.
“Growing up with diabetes, I found myself without resources or people that truly understood what was happening with me,” King said. “I found it incredibly rare to meet other Type 1 Diabetics, so I wanted to help start this because of that struggle.”
King wants to do what he can to help those with a similar experience to his, and help others know they aren’t alone. His goal is to keep growing the chapter and have a place with lots of support.
Zach Sherman, a sophomore environmental resources engineering major, got a late diagnosis at the age of 16, and he expresses how hard that was because he felt like he was too old to go to any groups or camps that were offered. He is one of the founders of this chapter and is happy to be a part of something bigger that supports him.
“I think one of the hardest things about having diabetes for me is the feeling that I am going through it alone,” Sherman said. “I knew I could handle my diagnosis and wanted to prove that I was capable of taking care of myself, alone, independently, just me.”
Sherman did not grow up with a large group of people who also had Type 1 around him. He only had one person that he could talk to about it. It was hard for him to talk to anyone else about it because he hasn’t had people around that have been able to understand what he was going through and how he felt.
“I never really knew what I was missing out on, so when Niz reached out to me about getting this club off the ground, I was excited but skeptical,” Sherman said. “However, just a few meetings later, I have already learned so much from everyone there.”
“My hope is that the chapter starts with our group and continues to grow organically over the years,” King said. “I want there to be a place to go to get support, understanding and resilience to handle the rigors of life and school while living with this condition.”
If anyone who has Type 1 wants to get involved with their club, whether or not they themselves have diabetes, check out their page on Instagram at @cph_diabeteslink for information on when meetings are.