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Sight not needed for vision

LBW Community College student Jeffrey Hall doesn’t let the lack of sight interfere with his dreams.

His inspirational progress in learning led to him being named the 2015 Student of the Year at both the county and state level by the Alabama Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, a program of the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services.

Hall, 24, is completely blind in his left eye and legally blind in the right eye, a condition he has dealt with from birth. He has challenges on a daily basis, he said.

“I have trouble reading and with transportation,” Hall said. “I have to walk everywhere if I don’t have a ride. It’s hard to depend on other people all the time. I’m pretty self-sufficient.”

From the first day of his educational journey in grammar school, Hall always felt the crush of expectations to fit in with other children.

“When I was younger, I had the opportunity to visit the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, but decided not to attend,” he said. “There was so much pressure to be normal at the public school, I just wanted to fit in.”

A 2009 graduate of Georgiana School, Hall didn’t think college was an option for him based on the challenges he faced throughout the years.

He started college at the LBWCC campus in Greenville because he had a ride to and from school. All of a sudden, though, the ride stopped being available.

“I had to find some other means of transportation to school,” he said. “Because I lived in Georgiana, I had to walk 15 miles from school to home a couple of times. People would help when they could. I didn’t want to give up, but after the third time of doing it, I just wanted to quit.”

Quitting college was prevented when a Georgiana family came to his aid.

“God intervened and placed the Ray Vancor family in my life. They helped me get to and from school, and I appreciate their help. They have since moved to Auburn,” he said.

His mother, Barbara Hall, moved her family to Andalusia about a year ago and he resumed his pursuit of a college degree at LBWCC’s Andalusia campus.

“We live about two miles from campus,” Hall said. “My mom works in Evergreen as a hospice nurse. I still have to walk from time to time. I now have Wilson Patrick, someone I can depend on, to pick me up in the morning and take me home in the afternoon.”

Hall is completing his last semester at LBWCC and transfers to the University of South Alabama for the upcoming spring semester.

“I am studying sociology to work in social services to help those who are struggling,” Hall said. “I know what it is like, and I could be an example to them. Don’t let your disability define you. If I can do it, you can do it.”

Vocational Rehabilitation provides Hall with some of the equipment that is essential for him in and out of the classroom, such as a magnifier and laptop computer, he said.

“LBW’s Student Support Services have been absolutely amazing. I wouldn’t be as far as I am without their help,” Hall said.

His success, he says, is due in large part to the support of his grandmother, Yvonne Curry.

“She’s always encouraged me that I could do anything I set my mind to do. She always called me her special child. I thank my mother and my grandmother for all their love and support through the years,” Hall said.

He said he was surprised to be nominated by LBWCC’s Latrece Hall, counselor, and Kelley Nolen in Student Support Services, for the county recognition as Student of the Year. Then, when he learned he would also receive the state award, he was stunned.

“My head almost popped off my shoulders when I found out,” he said. “Receiving this award makes me realize that I am just like other people with disabilities and it doesn’t make me any less normal than others without a disability. Anyone who is struggling with a mental or physical disability needs to know this.”

He said he was inspired by every nominee at the awards ceremony in Montgomery.

“They all inspired me as to what they achieved in their lives,” Hall said.

Before, he said, he placed too much emphasis on sight and not enough on faith.

“I believe you don’t have to have perfect sight to have a vision,” he said. “Whatever obstacle you are facing, it is not the end of the world. With God, and the right support, you can achieve and overcome any obstacle that you face.”

He said his grandmother often said to him when he was growing up, “Walk by faith and not by sight.” It is because of her inspiration through the years, her unwavering faith in his abilities, and her steadfast love that he now gives to her the trophy presented to him in recognition of his accomplishments.

“I’m giving my trophy to my grandmother as a thank you for her lifelong support and love,” Hall said.