By Joe Burris
Three years ago, Ben Fischer suffered a traumatic brain injury from a car accident that left him with slow cognitive skills. The Howard Community College student said that at the time doctors were uncertain whether he would to return to a traditional learning environment.
But Fischer battled back from the accident, and now advocates for students with disabilities. Earlier this week, he joined hundreds of community college students across the state to petition state lawmakers to boost funding to two-year schools.
The event is part of the annual Student Advocacy Day, which features speeches from student leaders, state lawmakers and community college presidents. Students also meet with their respective state delegates and senators.
“Primarily I am standing up for disabled students who are going to college at this point and time,” said Fischer, who was among 15 HCC students who attended Student Advocacy Day. “It takes me longer to understand things than those who don’t have these deficits that I do.”
Fischer commended HCC’s disabilities program and said that its Learning Assistance Center helps students with disabilities better understand class instruction.
“The best way for people to understand what another person is going through is to really relate to that person first and explain your story that, 'I used to be a normal student and I used to just go to college, just take the classes, and that’s all I really cared about at that point in time,'" said Fischer. "But now I actually care about people who are disabled, who are actually going through harder times.”
Joining Fischer on the trip from HCC was HCC student Jennie Wang, a single mother, who said that she chose HCC in part because of the opportunities the school’s Children’s Learning Center provides for her preschool daughter.
“It’s not a daycare; it’s a mini school for babies and kids,” said Wang, who added that the learning center enables her to concentrate on her own studies. “They teach the kids educational stuff every day. I have the peace of mind that my daughter is not playing around not learning anything.”
HCC students left campus at around 7 a.m., for a one-hour, 15-minute time slot with lawmakers at 11 a.m.
HCC student Zuri Chavers said that all students met with the lawmakers in groups of three. The son of a single parent who is launching his own business and has done an internship for Walt Disney World, he said that he conveyed to the lawmakers how much the college experience has aided his career endeavors.
“It was definitely a great experience for me,” said Chavers, “and a good chance for me to get insight from senators and delegates on what’s going on in government.”