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TCC Graduate Loses Sight, Finds A Better Path

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FORT WORTH (CBS11) - Quentin Johnson sees the world around him now, in varying degrees of darkness.

"It's like looking through a straw, walking through the fog," said Johnson, 53, of the degenerative retina disease that over the years gradually erased his eyesight.

He was born with the disease, but he also admits that his own poor choices also caused him to stumble.

"Addiction and things like that-- so I never really got the chance to finish the things I started," said Johnson.

Until now.

In this graduation season where families celebrate success, Johnson's story is a reminder to pause and reflect on the struggles that make them so sweet.

"I didn't want to be a burden," said Johnson. "I wanted to be an independent person, handle my own business, pay my own bills. I decided I needed to go back to school."

At Tarrant County College, he found a program called SAR: Student Accessibility Resources. "Visually impaired, hearing impaired-- whatever your situation may be--they want to go down every avenue to find something that's going to help you succeed."

For Johnson, the math was a challenge. So the program hired Mike Wright to turn the math assignments into manipulatives that he didn't have to see to understand. And ultimately the tutor learned a few lessons as well.

"It makes you appreciate what you have," said Wright. "Makes you think about how you might be able to live life differently if you didn't have that ability. Yeah, it's a game changer."

Wright said he had never worked with a blind student, but the experience shows that the drive to succeed is empowering for everyone involved.

"A job's a job; but, when you find yourself in a position to help another person that really genuinely wants to succeed in life-- there's no price you can put on that."

As Johnson suited up in his cap and gown at the Fort Worth Convention Center Tuesday-- made complete with a four-legged version for his canine, Slater--it was clearly a priceless experience for both tutor and student.

Johnson became the first in his family to graduate from college. He said he is so thankful for the support of his wife, Wanda, and his siblings and children. But, he's not done setting goals. Johnson wants to become a licensed drug abuse counselor.

"The way I look at it, we all have flaws," said Johnson. "We all have some kind of disability somewhere, mine just happens to be eye sight." The bottom line, he says, "it's never too late."

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