Alexx Aplin isn’t the normal college student. Actually, he’s much smarter and has more determination and drive than the average student.
Alexx, who is about to graduate from Brazosport College with an Associates of Arts degree, has a 3.82 grade point average and has earned membership in the school’s Phi Theta Kappa organization and the Honors Society. He was even recognized as one of BC’s 14 Distinguished Students for 2014.
Before that, Alexx graduated from Sweeny High School in 2012 and, thanks to taking dual credit classes while in high school, started college with 30 credit hours.
Even more impressive, however, is that he achieved all this despite encountering more than his share of obstacles.
Alexx was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as Brittle Bone Disease, which is a congenital bone disorder characterized by brittle bones that are prone to fracture. For Alexx, this confines him to a wheelchair and allows little mobility. The disease is genetic, with Alexx’s mother having the same disorder.
Alexx also doesn’t hesitate to talk about Brittle Bone Disease. He believes that knowledge is the best way to develop an understanding of his condition.
“You’d be surprised how many people will talk to me really loud or think I’m blind,” Alexx said. “Or they just stare at me. I would much rather them ask questions because that’s the best way to learn.”
And for anyone who talks to Alexx, the first thing they learn is that the disease has absolutely no affect on his mind.
“I go into a classroom with a new professor for the first time and I never know how it’s going to go,” Alexx said. “Many of them have figured out from the start that I’m just like any other student. I thought it would be an issue when I started college here, but it hasn’t. It’s been really, really nice.”
Actually, some of Alexx’s biggest issues are the same as any other student.
“The biggest challenge has been not getting lost when finding your classes during the first week of school,” he said with a laugh.
That doesn’t mean it’s always been easy, though.
Because he is unable to drive, Alexx’s grandmother, Verna Johnson, brings him to BC from his Brazoria home two days a week. Verna not only assists getting him to and from his classes, she remains at the college all day while he’s earning his education.
“I enjoy it,” Verna said of sacrificing her time. “I enjoy meeting Alexx’s friends. I went to school with his mom from pre-K to eighth grade because she has the same disability.
“To me this is just fun,” she added. “I love being around all this young knowledge. These bright kids will be our leaders someday.”
Alexx has faced a few other difficulties during his time at BC, but he’s been impressed at how often people are willing to help. Whether it’s fellow students opening doors or the assistance provided by the college’s disability services, assistance has been available when needed.
“People are so willing to help,” Alexx said. “The school got some desks for me that are adjustable for my wheelchair and that’s really helped me out.
“It’s the simple stuff,” he added. “For example, the bathrooms here are more than equipped for what I need. But overall, I’m always asked if I have everything I need. Nothing has been too challenging in terms of my disability. It’s been very normal, and that’s nice.”
Helping to ensure that Alexx receives needed assistance has been BC counselor Phil Robertson. However, Robertson admits that Alexx hasn’t needed much help.
“He’s a real go-getter and there isn’t that much he needs,” Robertson said. “We’ve used some adaptive equipment, some desk arrangements and a few other things, but we haven’t had to do too much. He’s just a very smart and determined young man and hasn’t needed much help.”
Verna has been pleased with how the college and its staff have assisted her grandson, as well. She also offered up some friendly, yet valuable advice, for helping others in need.
“Brazosport College has been very generous with me and has taken the time to answer all of our questions,” she said. “It’s a friendly and positive learning environment.
“Remember that everyone needs an advocate,” she added. “If you see someone that needs help, help them. Be that advocate. They might not have anyone else.”
When he crosses the stage and accepts his hard-earned associate degree on Saturday at the Dow Academic Center, Alexx knows he’s encountered many advocates at Brazosport College. Earning his associate degree, however, was a result of his own determination and work ethic.
“This college allows you to make your own way,” Alexx said. “You can pick your destination and they’ll help you get there, and everyone helps you along the way. This is definitely a place that gives everyone a helping hand.
“It wasn’t easy, but I’m here and I’ve done it,” Alexx added with a smile. “And if I can do it, anybody can.