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For Joliet Junior College student Lamas Alexander, earning his associate degree was always a goal. He wanted to do something that his parents and most of his siblings never did. Yet Alexander’s path toward an Associate in General Studies, which he plans to receive this May, has been challenging at times.
For about two years, Alexander served as a tank driver in the United States Army. During a test military exercise, an accident caused his tank to go down a cliff at 80 mph making Alexander hit his head severely, almost breaking his neck and back.
He lives with the effects of that accident today. He endures severe migraine headaches, neck and back pain and advanced cognitive impairment from the injury.
It’s meant trouble remembering, learning new things and concentrating. But Alexander never let those obstacles get in the way of accomplishing his dream.
“I suffered several setbacks over the course of my time at JJC, but I am proud to say that I will be walking across the stage to graduate this spring. This was an accomplishment that seemed insurmountable a few years ago,” said Alexander.
He made the most of the resources offered to him on campus by utilizing the Disability Services office and the Veterans Resource Center.
The Veterans Resource Center gave him a place to interact with other veterans and a quiet place to do his schoolwork.
Mindy Diaz, manager of Disability Services at JJC, said that Alexander’s positive outlook is encouraging to his peers.
“Lamas makes our job easy. He works hard, has a great attitude, always has a smiling face and expresses gratitude along the way. What he may not know is that we are grateful to have such a great role model supporting other students with disabilities on campus,” said Diaz.
Despite his disability, Alexander said that he loves life and learning about others.
“I enjoy listening to and learning from people from all walks of life. It's very important to me to understand why people think and feel the way they do,” said Alexander.
He said that he can’t think of just one person that has helped him earn his degree.
“Everyone has helped me through this arduous journey! I can't name one because I owe so many special individuals for my success,” said Alexander.
His plan for his degree is to hang it on a wall in his home and “just admire that it’s there, and I did it!”
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