Tragically, many graduating seniors won’t get to see themselves and their peers walk on stage during their commencement ceremony this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
St. Francis de Sales High School valedictorian Jalen Ballard had a graduation ceremony but he still didn’t exactly “see it”.
The school’s highest achieving senior, who will attend The University of Michigan after earning the prestigious Lighthouse Guild Scholarship, is blind.
Congrats! 👏 Jalen Ballard graduated with a 4.638 GPA and is headed to the University of Michigan to study computer science.
Ballard was born with Bilateral Microphthalmia.
This meant he had to have his cataracts removed when he was just 3-months-old and has battled with glaucoma for most of his life.
Ballard lost minimal vision after he suffered serious bleeding in his right eye. Now he just has dark and light vision.
WOW! Jalen Ballard achieved a 4.638 GPA and will be studying Computer Science! Best of luck to you Jalen!
But that hasn’t stopped Ballard from scoring a 4.638 GPA; developing a love for coding, math and science; or scoring the highest St. Francis entrance test score in Toldeo.
“I think that St. Francis helped make Jalen the best Jalen he could be, but Jalen also helped St. Francis become a better St. Francis,” Father Geoff Rose, president of St. Francis, told FOX 17 KDSM.
But Ballard says he can’t take all of the credit for his success.
“I would really credit the faculty just as much in helping me with this journey,” Ballard said. “This is a brotherhood and just all of the little things that they’ve done individually, whether it’s me going the wrong way or whatever else, it’s very dear to me and that’s a big part of it, too.”
Ballard even paid tribute to the St. Francis staff in his recorded speech played at graduation.
He explained that the staff had to learn new ways to teach just so they could teach Ballard as well as their other students.
“They embraced the unknown because they hadn’t worked with a blind student before, but they took the chance and I think it worked out for both parties,” he said.
Rose agrees that having Ballard as one of St. Francis’ students has been a blessing.
“Students like Jalen and others, give us that daily, gentle reminder to think of others first,” Father Geoff Rose, president of St. Francis, told FOX 5 Atlanta.
Ballard was so inspired by his teacher’s efforts that it helped him to win the Lighthouse Guild Teacher Recognition Award.
He earned the $8,500 scholarship after writing an essay about his physics teacher Scott Secrest, according to ABC 13.
While Ballard’s success has had much to do with own will and the help of the staff, one thing it didn’t have to do with was the fact that he was blind.
“We, as a family, tried not to focus on his blindness,” said mom Michelle Ballard. “But pretty much incorporated him into typical everyday life and not dwell on his blindness. That’s apart of him, it’s not who he is.”
Ballard said he hopes his story can “inspire and empower” others.
Mom said she couldn’t be more proud of her graduate.
“It’s extremely emotional just to know how far he has come,” said Michelle Ballard.
“There are no boundaries there are no limitations in life. If you set your mind to something you can absolutely accomplishment.”
Rose is also excited to see Ballard move on and into the future.
“There’s something, I think, he’s going to do very special,” he said. “And we will wait with great hope to see what it is.”
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