2021 Focus Award Recipient - Organization

RIISE- Reinventing the Interface of Inclusivity, Sports, and Engineering

Reinventing the Interface of Inclusivity, Sports, and Engineering, known as RIISE, seeks to showcase excellence and improve accessibility in Paralympic sports. Consisting of both intercollegiate and intramural student athletes, RIISE seeks to enhance the world of accessibility and inclusion through athletics.  

Leony Budreau, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering is the founder of RIISE. In an interview with the Journal & Courier, Budreau shared her vision for RIISE, stating “[i]t’s about giving other people the opportunity to achieve their full potential no matter the situation . . .  I’ve been fortunate enough to have so many opportunities in my life that I want to give back to people right now and use the platform of sports and the resources I have at Purdue to help others and make an impact and do it my way.”

Focusing initially on wheelchair basketball, RIISE is working to build more student interest in the sport. The organization’s goal is to eventually establish an official intercollegiate wheelchair basketball team at Purdue. In fostering collaborations with Purdue Athletics and with students and faculty in the School of Engineering, RIISE has made great strides by tapping into Purdue’s unique qualities and resources to make advances in a community that too often goes overlooked. 

In September 2019, Leony and Shelby Gruss, a former captain of the USA Wheelchair basketball team and PhD student at Purdue, teamed up to organize the Wheel Rise Event. Wheel Rise raised awareness for Paralympic Sports and money for the Challenged Athletes Fund. The event featured a competitive game by the University of Illinois Wheelchair Basketball Team.  Many former Paralympic Athletes and student-athletes attended the event.

In his letter nominating the organization for this award, Eli Van Sickel stated, “RIISE is led by students who are driven to make this not just another student organization, but a campus-wide movement.”

RIISE is an active student organization, continually striving to make our community, and our world, a more inclusive place to live and play.