TNCC Student Undeterred by Visual Impairment Graduates in Class of 2009


Published: May 20, 2009

If Natasha Hubbard’s class started at 10 a.m., she was on campus by 8 a.m. Her philosophy: being early surely beats showing up late. Before class, the Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC) student usually found a relaxing place to sit near the shrubbery outside of Templin Hall on the Hampton campus. Nothing disturbed her there – not even the bumbles bees that swarmed around her seat. “I never moved,” Hubbard said with a laugh. “I couldn’t see them anyway.”Hubbard lost sight in her left eye when she was 12 years old. At 16, she lost sight in her right eye, leaving her completely blind. With plenty of determination and assistance from TNCC’s Disabled Student Services team, Hubbard completed the requirements for an Associate of Science in Social Science degree at the end of the fall 2008 semester with a 3.5 grade point average.  She graduated with the class of 2009 during the College’s fortieth annual commencement ceremony. “She’s an inspiration,” said longtime friend Karen Perez.

For Hubbard, wife and mother of a 5-year-old daughter and 9-month-old son, adjusting to college life was fairly easy. She used Braille angles and graphs in her Biology and Math courses and audio textbooks for other classes.

When the audio text didn’t arrive, Hubbard asked Perez to read the hard copies aloud. “She’s used to being an auditory learner. She gets books for pleasure on cassette, so she picks it up on the first try,” Perez said.

After a few doses of her comical and bubbly personality, many classmates would forget she was blind. Hubbard says college may have been harder without the help she received from TNCC staff. “All of the teachers are understanding and willing to help and accommodate the students. I had a good experience at Thomas Nelson. I wish I could have continued to get my Bachelor’s here,” she said.

Hubbard is working toward a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science through Ashford University’s online program. Upon completion of her Bachelor’s Degree, she plans to become a counselor for disabled people. Later this month, she will participate in a mentoring program that encourages disabled high school students to go to college. “That’s good experience for me since that’s what I want to do,” Hubbard said.

When Hubbard lost her sight as a teen, she left Heritage High School in Hampton to attend the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in Staunton. “I had to go three hours away, catch a charter bus, live there and come home on the weekends,” she said.

The school’s curriculum includes lessons in keyboarding proficiency, reading Braille and learning from audio books. The students also learn about body image, organizing personal space, using public transportation and more.

During an apartment course, Hubbard learned to live on her own. “We had to go to the grocery store on our own and then we had to live in the apartment and cook for ourselves and pay a bill for the rent. It was just a week, but I guess that’s what I needed,” she said.

In 2005, when her daughter was 7 months old, Hubbard moved into her own apartment, determined to take care of herself and infant daughter with minimal assistance. When Hubbard’s daughter was 2, she enrolled in her first class at TNCC. She quickly developed a daily routine that didn’t include assistance from her family and friends. Before school, she walked her daughter to a daycare center three blocks from her home. After that, she walked back home to pickup her laptop and wait outside for Handi-Ride. She made weekly arrangements for the service to drop her off and pick her up from TNCC. “She’s so independent. It’s hard to believe she’s blind. She doesn’t want help. She does it by herself,” Perez said.

When asked what motivates her, Hubbard’s answer is simple. “My kids,” she said. “I want to set a good example for them and show them that they can do it no matter what. Don’t let anything hold you back.”

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