For Emma DePaola, 19, a sophomore at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY, singing has been a constant in her life since she was 5 and growing up in Westchester County. In addition to bringing her great joy, it has been a perfect antidote to another constant in Emma’s life—her type 1 diabetes (T1D) which she developed when she was 11-years-old. “I love to sing,” said Emma who has been a patient of Dr. Barney Softness at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center since her diagnosis. “I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember.”
After years of participating predominately in musical theater, Emma now sings with The Swinging 'Gates, Colgate’s very own 21-member, all female a cappella group with a soaring spirit and eclectic repertoire. Very rarely does Emma’s T1D get in the way of performing. In fact, her organizational skills and her ability to think and plan ahead—all qualities that are honed with T1D—have helped her with the Swinging 'Gates; Emma and a friend road-managed the group’s seven-day, January tour of San Francisco and Seattle. “Having diabetes,” she said, “is like having a second, part-time job.”
Each year the Swinging 'Gates visit two cities in the United States for the purpose of performing, this time around, six concerts. To that end, Emma, in her role as tour manager, received $23,000 from the University to make it happen—and from that came the cost of airfares, food and housing for 21 women. One night, she made dinner reservations for 36 people. “Difficult” was the word Emma used to describe bringing it all in within budget. Still, she said, it was not as difficult as getting through security at the Seattle airport with a broken metal detector and an insulin pump during the government shutdown.
“I liked the alumni concerts,” said Emma, a history major who is thinking of becoming a lawyer. “We had a chance to talk about Colgate then and now. It was great.” The entire trip, she said, was “a learning experience”—from figuring out when to change her pump site given she was gone all day, to balancing a budget. But her favorite was learning from Colgate graduates that no matter where in life she ends up living, she will always be able to sing a cappella. “That there’s always someplace to sing is nice to know,” she said.