• Mary Jo Dyre

Giant Steps from a Wheelchair





Bailey Hogsed's inspiring determination when faced with muscular dystrophy, first diagnosed during 7th grade, required a second blog devoted to the greater story.


This week's "extended insider look" captures the relentlessness needed to pursue his educational goals, as well as, his heartfelt willingness to share the very personal challenges he faces on a daily basis. His articulate words are powerful and motivating:


I went to Tri-County Early College for high school, 2012-2016. Again, this learning experience strayed from conventional methods. College classes would be taught in tandem with regular high school courses with the hope of earning an associate's degree by the end.

Additionally, focusing on the end-of-term standardized tests wasn't the priority. Simply regurgitating facts doesn't prepare you for the real world. So, this would be substituted with presentations and group projects. My most fond memory is during physics in my junior year. We were assigned a project to build a Rube Goldberg machine. This brought our logical and creative sides together to produce a ridiculous machine to achieve a simple task. I just thought it was neat and quirky.

Straight out of high school, about a month after graduation, to be precise, I had a spinal fusion. This put a damper on my original plans of going to NCSU. After some thought and planning, I determined something closer to home would suit me better. I attended Young Harris College from 2016-2019. I majored in Chemistry and minored in Physics. Three years is a lot of Chemistry, so I still wasn't sure if I wanted to get a Ph.D. or not. Eventually, the decision of starting with an MS was made – just testing the waters. After being submerged in the newfound environment of research, I instantly fell in love. I finished my master's in comprehensive chemistry this year (2021). Now, with an addiction to knowledge and no plans to leave academia, I was off to NCSU to pursue my Doctorate in Computational Chemistry.

That's where I am now. My Ph.D. should take four to five years, and then after that, I'm looking at a postdoc or applying for a professorship at a university. Along the way, I hope to research anything that could help the environment and our climate crisis."


*****

After the above portion of the first interview, I knew I wanted to delve deeper into the world of living with a physical disability. Bailey graciously shared more: What has been the greatest challenge to continue pursuing your academic goals? Outside of every college student's fundamental struggles – studying, time management, independence, etc. – I especially struggled with the rigid processes ' to get from point A to B'. There are so many hoops of bureaucracy to achieve an equal level of education for someone with a disability. For myself, an excellent example of this is the GRE (Graduate Records Examination). For your average Joe, they go in and take the test. In my case, I had to apply for an approved aide to type/select answers for me. This individual's assignment is to be there for as long as I need them and provide no advantages, such as correcting one of my answers. Sounds reasonable? Well, training a new aide on the spot who you've never met before is impossible, especially when the purpose of being there in the first place is the exam. The good news is some of these "milestones examinations" are being rejected by universities. Meaning they are becoming obsolete. Which is greater, the physical or the mental challenge to stay positive and continue to believe you will find a way forward? I would argue that they are equally complex. New technology makes adapting easier and more comfortable. Medicine evolves daily, and scientists have made unbelievable discoveries in just my lifetime alone. My belief in science is rife in every molecule of my being; this is my hope. The mental battle is a bit trickier. I will make the broad appeal that most people face mental struggles reasonably often and don't talk about it because it's been stigmatized as taboo or a sign of weakness. Personally, the stress from the workload combined with" life stress" is immensely overwhelming at times. When I feel this way, I step away from the computer – go outside – and look at where I live. The heart of the Appalachian mountains keeps me grounded and grateful. A balance of mental and physical well-being is something that doesn't get discussed enough. Do you see yourself with wisdom beyond your years? No. I think I have a unique perspective on life, but I believe wisdom is gained over time. Going through something at a young age changes how one approaches situations but doesn't necessarily change one's demeanor. I was able to see things from a more adult perspective at a young age, but that didn't stop me from being a goofball! Any advice for others facing any sort of challenge? You're not alone. There exist communities out there to aid and support you on your journey. So, remain steadfast and advocate for yourself and others.



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