Ben White began losing his sight when he was 27. He is now totally blind and pursuing an associate degree in Human Services at Tidewater Community College.
He found a passion to serve others with disabilities when he was struggling to find work during the pandemic. “Once I realized that many jobs were not accessible and doors were not opening for me, I took a leap of faith and went back to school,” he said.
Ben began attending workshops through the state and local Offices of Visual Impairment. That’s when he saw others in need and wanted to help. “There were so many people like me, who wanted to be productive, but were unsure about how to make their way in life,” he said.
Ben chose Human Services because it prepares him for a career serving those in need. He is learning basic counseling skills, various functions of crisis intervention, the management principles of human and social service, and developing the skills needed to address the needs of clients.
“I never thought I’d go to college as I was a high school dropout and got my GED,” Ben said. “Training to help the underserved, abused, those dealing with childhood trauma, the visually impaired and so many others, makes me excited to get up and start each day.”
Ben is now in his third semester at TCC and has a 3.5 GPA. He is on the Dean’s List and a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year schools.
While at TCC, Ben received support from the college’s Open Door Project which provides support for first-generation college students. “The faculty and staff of Open Door have been so much a part of my success,” he said. “They became my village and made me feel comfortable where I was, motivated me to move forward and picked me up when I’m down.”
Ben also received support from the college’s Office of Educational Accessibility. Because of his visual impairment, he was given extra time on exams and a screen reader for use in class and for assignments.
Part of Ben’s program at TCC included an internship in a local nonprofit. That experience turned into full-time work and now Ben is an independent living coordinator at the Independence Center. “My work helps me bridge the gap and teach people the skills they need to live independently. It is the most rewarding work I’ve ever done,” he said.
Ben remembers growing up in one of the poorest, most violent neighborhoods in New York City. “I was always told that I wasn’t going to make it past age 18. For me to reinvent myself at 49, well that’s a success story and TCC has a lot to do with it.”
The father of two children, Ben, says he is proud to set an example for them. “TCC gave me the foundation and the tools to be where I am today. At first, I didn’t think I was going to make it. Thankfully, my Open Door advisors taught me how to balance everything and kept me going.”
In his free time, Ben likes to cook up a storm. His favorite food is spicy with a Caribbean flair.