Martial arts, interning and volunteering are activities any student would feel proud of accomplishing, but for one senior criminal justice major with cerebral palsy, this is just an average week.
“The way HEMA attracted me is the way they attract everybody else: We swing big swords on campus,” Bobby Mladenov said of Knight’s Blade, UCF's chapter of the Historical European Martial Arts Association.
Mladenov is an intern at UCF’s Department of Emergency Management, the vice president of Knight's Blade, an online tutor and a volunteer with UCF’s Circle K International. In his free time, he makes art using traditional and digital media and writes short stories.
Mladenov said he finds happiness in growth and learning and doesn’t let cerebral palsy get in his way.
Cerebral palsy is an incurable disorder affecting body movement and muscle coordination that begins showing such symptoms in early childhood.
“Does it prevent me from certain things? Yes,” Bobby Mladenov said. “I’m one of those people that regardless, I will try. Don’t block me out; I may not make it, but I want to try it.”
Junior Lydia Rhoa, Knight's Blade president, works hand-in-hand with Mladenov and said she believes he is an inspiration.
“He’s a very capable leader,” Rhoa explained. “We’ve gone to events and people will ask why we’re letting our fighter fight injured; obviously they just don’t know, but people have been really open to him fighting once they learn he’s a fighter with cerebral palsy.”
Some days are harder than others, but Mladenov uses his more than a decade of martial arts experience to overcome everyday challenges.
“People think that with my status I can’t do what I can do and that’s not true,” Mladenov said.
For Mladenov the bigger picture is helping others. With dreams of working in a counter terrorism task force with the FBI, Mladenov considered the various steps he has to take to get there. This may mean a path in the military, fire department or a job with the police force.
“I want to help people,” Mladenov said. “There are different things I have considered doing; the military medically won't accept me, but there are different ways to serve America in different capacities. I prefer to be proactive and help prevent threats before we have to recover from them.”
The technicalities of not being able to go certain routes, such as passing the medical qualifications to join the military, will not stop Mladenov in serving his country.
“I think he’s accepted and willing to accept that some things he won’t be able to do, but he is very inspirational in that he will try anything and will not give up,” Rhoa said.
For Mladenov, it’s more than just doing what is expected; it’s about doing what you love, no matter what.