“COLLAPSING THE LEARNING CURVE”
Most people seem to have a lot of preconceived notions about those of us with disabilities and what we’re capable of, several of which revolve around our perceived level of functioning and our ability to further our education beyond a high school diploma or GED. To an extent, it’s true that a traditional classroom setting isn’t for everybody because not everyone learns things the same way. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that post-secondary education isn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility for those of us with disabilities.
My path to college began right when I got out of high school back in 2003. I was a business major taking on a full course load at the UMA-Bangor campus. My plan at the time was to pursue a career in marketing or advertising. But we all know that nothing in life ever really goes according to plan. Not long after my first semester began, I encountered some work problems and other personal problems that left a bad taste in my mouth for a while. I wasn’t in a good frame of mind, and I wasn’t able to commit myself to my studies because of it. In all honesty, my heart wasn’t in it and I had no passion for what I was doing, which resulted in a low GPA and a self-imposed exile from a traditional classroom setting. The only good grade I achieved that semester was a B+ in public speaking, which should come as no surprise to anyone now, because I will talk anyone’s ear off if they let me.
I took meager solace in the fact that other people share a similar experience when they realize they aren’t quite ready for college right when they get out of high school. I was in between jobs during the summer of 2007 when college came calling again, even though I was more concerned with trying to find work. My mother was an instructor at Beal College at the time, and she woke me up one morning and told me to get dressed because she was taking me to school. I reluctantly agreed and registered for classes that day, not really knowing what to expect.
In time, I realized that Beal College was different from other brick-and-mortar institutes. They ran on a “modular system” where new classes were offered every eight weeks, which made my schoolwork a lot easier for me to manage. They also prided themselves on their smaller class sizes and the personalized attention that they gave each of their students to help them succeed. The usual cliques I had come to expect, and the backstabbing and infighting normally associated with them, were virtually nonexistent as every other student lived a full productive life of their own while they went about their business and did their own thing. For the first time in a long time, I could relax around people I was going to school with. These people truly liked me and respected me, and I got along with just about everybody. I didn’t have to try so hard to impress them or pretend to be somebody I wasn’t.
I graduated from Beal College on May 3, 2009, as the final graduate of their office management Associate’s Degree program. I could not have been any prouder to have gone to college and put in the time and effort that I needed to and gotten something meaningful out of it in the end.
Everyone should be able to set goals for themselves and make a conscious effort to achieve them. It’s part of what makes us all human. I hope that my experience inspires other people like me to aim high for what they want in life.
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