The smile rarely leaves her face.
And considering the obstacles she's had to overcome, Devinera Serrell-Wilson – or Dev, as she's known to her friends – has become a bright spot in the lives of many at Metropolitan Community College-Blue River, where she is a student.
When she was young Serrell-Wilson was afflicted with dystonia, a muscular disease, which has limited her to a wheelchair and the use of a tablet on her lap to help her communicate after several surgeries have allowed her more independence. But to her friends, she's as normal as any other student at the community college in eastern Independence.
The William Chrisman High School graduate is also excelling. She's now a sophomore at Blue River studying computer science and was elected as the Student Government Association treasurer.
She recently represented MCC attending the National Association of Campus Activities conference in Oklahoma City Oct. 12-15 along with Blue River SGA President Lucja Basinska and other representatives of the Penn Valley and Longview campuses and flashed her trademark smile there as well.
Richard Monroe, the campus life and leadership coordinator at Blue River and the Blue River SGA adviser, found out on the trip there that this was the first time Serrell-Wilson had left the Kansas City area.
"Ever since we talked about students going to a conference, she had been so excited about doing that," Monroe said. "... And then we found out on the bus that she had never been out of Kansas City in her entire life, so that added a little bit more to the whole week."
Serrell-Wilson said it was an "amazing" experience to leave the area for the first time and that she was awed by the amount of buildings there.
At the NACA conference, student representatives meet with musical artists, comedians and magicians and their agents, who sell the student governments on bringing their acts to the different colleges. The representatives go around to booths set up by the artists to experience what they have to offer and sell the artists on their schools.
"We see people who would like to come to our school," Serrell-Wilson explained.
And Basinska and Monroe said that Dev was the star to the stars.
"And Dev was the absolute star of that," Basinska said. "Everybody remembered her name! We were all going and we were behind her and there was this magician, and he's like, 'Oh, hi Dev!' And he didn't say hi to anybody else. He knew us too, but Dev was the star. Everybody went over to her."
Monroe said her smile was infectious. As they enter the conference, the students and acts line up for introductory high-fives. Her smile stole the show.
"Just the look on her face was how she was all week," Monroe said. "Her smile was just from ear to ear. It was just an incredible story for her to be able to do that. She was just going above and beyond to enjoy the experience."
And she went above and beyond in another way. As the conference ends, the acts are asked to vote on the best colleges in attendance. And despite being one of the only community colleges there, MCC finished second by just one vote to Fort Hays State of Kansas.
"And I would say most of that is probably because of what Dev did," Monroe said. "She would go all over and meet all the agents and she would talk and really share who MCC is, and that was just a great experience."
"Everybody knew my name in the marketplace," Serrell-Wilson said through her tablet.
Added Monroe: "I think this experience for her was incredible. I kind of told them what it would look like for them on the way down, and I asked them on the way back, 'Did you get what you expected?' And they said, 'So much more.'"
Basinska said she got to know Dev more on the way down to Oklahoma City. Now she considers her an integral part of the student government.
"There are no obstacles or anything with the communication or anything. There is no problem," Basinska said. "At the beginning I was thinking that there might be some, but as we went along, everything has gone so well. She's doing a really good job."
And as Monroe puts it, "She's beating the odds."
"She, no matter what, always has a big smile on her face. I think that's truly it," he continued. "We had some ups and downs on the trip because of some ADA capabilities problems, but no matter what she was a team player. ... She just has a smile no matter what. I wanted her to have an experience just like the other students who were going on this trip, so that's why we made it to have everyone on one vehicle, so she could have an enjoyable experience just like the other students."