Freddie Epperson, a native of North Little Rock, was born with cerebral palsy, but he’s never let that limitation keep him from living his life to the fullest and getting the education he wanted.
Now Epperson has started a nonprofit organization, Beyond Our Limitations, to help people with limitations find education and employment opportunities.
“I’m trying to inspire and encourage other people with limitations to achieve the most they can with their lives,” Epperson said. “It can be autism, blindness, any type of limitation whether it’s mental, physical, or whatever. You are welcome to be a part of this.”
His first fight for an education came when he was just seven years old. Epperson had been placed in a special education program for kindergarten and first grade. Epperson asked his mother if he could be tested for regular classroom placement the summer before second grade.
“A lot of people assume just because you have physical limitations that you also have mental limitations,” he said. “I had to fight for my education at an early age. I begged my mom to get tested, and I was able to advance out of special education.”
Epperson said that his mother and her support are responsible for determining the man he is today.
“My mom is like my source of motivation for everything I want to do,” he said. “Whenever I was unencouraged about something, I always talked to my mom and she gave me the push to keep going. My mom told me that she would support me in anything I wanted to do as long as I was serious about it. She is always there for anything I wanted to do.”
Epperson joined UA Little Rock in 2011 after some encouragement from a friend.
“I got into UA Little Rock on a dare because my best friend didn’t think I would get in,” Epperson said. “We both applied to Pulaski Tech and we got in. I told him I wanted to try the traditional way, and it happened to work out for me. I started here in 2011, and I did 16-18 hours every semester to get done in four years. I wanted to finish.”
During his time at UA Little Rock, Epperson was a member of the Student Government Association for one year and found mentors in professors David Briscoe and David Montague.
“When I have my mind set on something, I have tunnel vision,” Epperson said. “It was very compact and it was very different. I didn’t see many people in my courses that looked like me. It made me work hard. I felt like I had to prove myself to everyone. It was very rewarding. It was a lot of hard work, but I was able to push through, and it paid off for me.”
After graduating from UA Little Rock in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Epperson earned his Master of Public Administration from Webster University in 2017. As part of his graduate program, he began making plans for his nonprofit organization.
“Even with my extensive education, I have been on several job interviews under my fields of study, and I have been turned down for employment I believe because of my physical stature or preconceived notion of my disability,” Epperson said. “All of which brings me to the purpose of Beyond our Limitations, which is my passion to create a safe place for disabled persons so that they may come to deliver and share their unique stories, network, and motivate one another to achieve their goals.”
Epperson recently shared his story as the commencement speaker for the Academics, Community, Career Development, and Employment (ACCE) commencement program in May. The ACCE program, a post-secondary education and training program between Easterseals Arkansas and UA Little Rock, provides students between ages 18 and 30 with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to have a college and work experience that prepares them for employment.
“No matter your ability, you can do whatever you want to do as long as you are willing to do the work,” Epperson said. “I would tell students to take their time and never take no for an answer. When someone says you shouldn’t do something, it’s up to you.”