One day, Sarah Skolaski woke up and ran across campus to get to a class with only five minutes left in it, but this was not a typical case of a student accidentally sleeping in too late.
“After class, with my instructor, I just started crying and was like, ‘I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t know what I’m doing,’” Skolaski said. “She was so helpful and said, ‘We’re going to figure this out together and whatever you need from me, let me know.’”
Skolaski, senior graphic design major, said she has idiopathic hypersomnia, which is a type of sleeping disorder that causes an insatiable need to sleep. Before she was on medication for her sleep disorder, Skolaski said she would fall asleep in the art room at high school and miss the rest of her classes, or she would sleep in too long and have to rush to school.
“I missed a lot of school my junior year of high school, and having the medication that brings me up to the point where I can take it from there has been really helpful,” Skolaski said.
Skolaski said her sleeping disorder has always caused issues for her, but she could not figure out why she was sleeping so much. During college, Skolaski said she was missing classes, especially her class with the Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services program.
Skolaski said she wants to inspire other students to keep pursuing their goals and dreams despite the obstacles that are thrown their way.
Being an OASIS peer mentor and UNL student vice president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Skolaski said she faced struggles like having a sleeping disorder, having obsessive-compulsive disorder and coming out as gay.
Jesus Yanez Ruiz, an educational administration graduate student, met Skolaski during his first year as a graduate student. Yanez Ruiz said one thing he appreciates about Skolaski is that she shows vulnerability with others, so it makes it easier to connect with her.
“Sarah is very engaging,” Yanez Ruiz said. “She always wants students to know that they can talk to her and that she is willing to talk to them.”
Yanez Ruiz said Skolaski is one of the hardest working people he knows, and she is always willing to go the extra mile if that means that someone else is going to have an easier time.
Yanez Ruiz said it is admirable that Skolaski is willing to open up about her life and struggles, like her OCD. Skolaski said many people think that OCD is about cleanliness, but for her, she said it is more about appearance.
“It’s hard to explain because OCD, you have these rules, but I couldn’t even tell you what the rules are,” Skolaski said. “They are just there. I couldn’t just be like ‘Oh, I can’t wear that shirt today.’ It’s just like my mind is telling me that shirt is not the right one.”
Around last year, Skolaski said she started hanging out with this girl in her friend group, and eventually she started dating her. Soon after that, school switched completely online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Skolaski said she did not want to lie to her parents about being gay.
“I came out pretty quick and probably quicker than I would have wanted to because I didn’t want to keep anything from them, but it actually ended up being a really great experience for my entire family,” Skolaski said.
Skolaski said her family and friends are one of the main reasons why she was able to face many of the obstacles in her life. Skolaski said she hopes her story can inspire others to remain hopeful even when life is challenging.
“I would love to be used as an example,” Skolaski said. “I would love for my OASIS students, my friends and people I know and talk to in class to be able to be like ‘Hey, she’s doing it, I got it.’ I would love to be able to start conversations about OCD, about mental illness, about being gay and about all these topics and be able to allow those things to be explored, understood and discussed.”