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West Chester U. Student Overcomes Disability With Vision Of Hope

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) – Twenty-two-year-old West Chester University senior Tarik Williams is more than a big man on campus.

He's "King of the Rams."

But his rise to the top had its own unique set of challenges.

When he was diagnosed with a genetic disease that robbed him of his central vision in 2009, he vowed he wouldn't let it rob him of his future.

So, he created a vision for his life, and today, it serves as a vision of hope for the rest of us.

He's a rapper with a message of hope. For the past six years, the English major has used song-writing to cope with Leber hereditary optic neuropathy, or LHON.

It may have stolen his central vision, but it didn't steal his focus.

"When I'm on stage performing, I honestly can't tell you what happens, because I get into this zone where I'm not thinking about what I'm doing, it just comes to me," Williams says.

On April 17th, it helped him land the title of "Mr. WCU."

"I remember everything being in slow motion, I remember hearing my name being called, and I was just like, 'I did it,'" he says.

It was the crowning achievement of an already successful college career. Thanks to assistive technology, he's managed a 3.0 grade point average, all while marching in the band, participating in Greek life, acting as a member of the debate team and serving as a student ambassador with the Office for Students with Disabilities.

"The work that we try to do here to help with compliance issues, with the federal and state laws…and with self-advocacy, is perfectly demonstrated in someone like Tarik. He is a sterling member of the community. He is Mr. WCU, obviously, and what people see there is not a disability, but a person who is blossoming as an individual, who's proud of who he is and is not afraid to stand up and say, you know, 'This is me,'" explains Dr. Martin Patwell, the director of services for students with disabilities.

What's next for Mr. WCU?

Tarik has applied to graduate school, where he plans to pursue rehabilitation counseling, which will allow him to continue to mentor individuals with disabilities.

And he says all of his accomplishments are due to the way he was raised, and that the highlight is always making his mom proud.

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