“Sociables” Affinity Club Creates Respectful and Inclusive Community

Peter volunteering with Philip Pownall, personal mentor and director of the Disability Resource Center.

By Ashley Chatmon

Earnest. Artistic. Engaging. These are three words that campus leaders have used to describe Peter Mankin, the Flagler College second year dedicated to making a difference. Empowered by his own experience with disability, a passion for leadership, and the “golden rule,” he has begun to make waves for disability inclusion and allyship in his campus community. 

Peter is the founder of Flagler’s newest affinity club, “Sociables.” The goal of this club, like many other affinity groups, is to provide a safe place on campus for a vulnerable student population and support the reinforcements already offered by the college.  

Philip Pownall is a pillar of one of the campus’s supports as the director of the campus Disability Resource Center. He got to know Peter Mankin through the students’ first year and learned of his interest in starting a social group when he volunteered with the DRC (Disability Resource Center) over the summer.  

“They can come and talk to me all they like, but I’m still an old man.” said Pownall. 

Affinity Groups are student led organizations that celebrate a traditionally marginalized identity. ‘Sociables’ seeks to celebrate students with disabilities. Pownall believes the student-driven nature of the organization will answer a need for many students with disabilities. 

‘’Firstly, it will allow students with disabilities, especially those on the Autism Spectrum, those with anxiety disorders, and those who are having social connection issues to be able to find an immediate peer group in which to interact” said Pownall. 

In order to create an environment that was inclusive of a variety of disabilities, Peter decided to create a group that was social with an educational bend. Pownall describes students with disabilities as a “minority of minorities.” Not only will the club help facilitate social connection and mentoring opportunities, but it will allow students without disabilities to understand a distinct perspective.  

Sociables Founder and President Peter Mankin posing with “Welcome Home Class of 2025” sign.

“Disability doesn’t mean inability; it means doing things in a different way. Those students who don’t have disabilities need to learn that a different way doesn’t make you different. It’s your method of accessing the world, not who you are.” Pownall said. 

Pownall hopes that the group will help students without disability deepen their understanding and see the commonalities they have with their differently abled peers.  

“Students with disabilities are still just students. They come from where they come from. They have the race, gender, religion and political alignments or sexual orientation as other students at Flagler College.” Pownall said. 

Peter cites his relationship with Philip and his time volunteering in the DRC as a key factor in growing his confidence in his ability to manage Sociables as well as being a good leader and role model, but Peter was no stranger to being a leader among his peers. 

As a high school student, he started a similar initiative with the help of a social worker to found an independent living skills group where he organized social events for students with disabilities.  

The continued contribution to community that led to the fruition of Sociables is a testament to Peter’s dedication to growing as a leader. The sincerity of his leadership is not marked by a desire for power or pride, but a genuine desire to model treating others as you want to be treated. 

Peter’s potential for leadership was also identified by his first-year seminar professor and Dean of Academic Access & Success, Jill Dawson, who recommended him to the President’s Leadership Academy.  

“I met Peter the summer before he enrolled at Flagler and he made an impression from the start – honest about the anxieties and questions he had, intellectually curious, immensely talented, open to all the guidance he was receiving. In our First Year Seminar class he was always prepared and engaged but the thing that stood out to me was his desire to find and build community on campus. He is an exceptional student, but that drive to bring people together, to me, is what shows his potential for leadership.” Dawson said. 

The Presidents Leadership Academy is a selective group that offers students the chance to experience leadership using a curriculum that intertwines themes derived from Flagler’s core values. Peter points to the cohort as a major contributor to his growth. 

‘’I learned how to step up as a leader.” Peter said. 

Peter uses his personality to seek common ground with other students, and drill into what they can do together to improve the campus community. 

The message Peter hopes to put into the world can be summed up in one habit to put off and two to put on: do not judge others, do treat others with respect, and follow the golden rule. 

“I just believe that treating others the way they want to be treated is the best way to make friendships and share our values,” Peter said.  

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