Diamond Bennett struggles with her hearing, eyesight, vitiligo, and stage 3 kidney and Graves’ disease, but her passion for bettering herself through education makes all those issues seem small.
Diamond has a rare genetic immune disease called Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease. It’s a disorder that affects the eyes, ears, skin and covering of the brain and spinal cord. She was born deaf and with limited eyesight. It wasn’t until many years later that a doctor connected the two and along with her skin condition, was able to give her family a diagnosis that made sense. Even as they got the disease under control, Diamond was also diagnosed with Graves’ disease and stage 3 kidney failure.
Despite her health challenges, Diamond always enjoyed school. She graduated high school from the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind—but the special diploma was not enough for most colleges, and she was eager to do more.
“When I graduated from Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, because of my condition, I could only read at a fifth-grade level,” Diamond said. “My hope of going to a 4-year college was out of the window because I could never pass my ACT. I had several friends that I had to watch leave to boundless career paths and left me wondering what I am going to do. I am always a determined person but door after door was slammed in my face. Then Florida Career College gave me a window.”
Diamond enrolled in the Business Office Administration Program at Florida Career College in Jacksonville as well as the high school diploma program, allowing students to earn a diploma through a third-party provider while studying at FCC.
“I was nervous,” she said. “I am deaf with a special diploma and can barely talk. How am I going to do this? … It took all that I had just pass the high school test to get into the high school program.”
Diamond’s benefits did not cover the cost for a sign language interpreter to come to class with her, but Diamond still found a way. She brought her mother with her to act as her interpreter.
“She’s a special young lady,” said Amye Mathews, Diamond’s instructor. “She has a disability, but she doesn’t let that get in her way. She’s very hardworking. She does what she is supposed to do, she tries to get her work done and she works hard. If you give her a task, she does her best to get it done and if she has a question she’ll ask.”
“I keep it moving and I have great support from family and friends,” Diamond said. “Now I am at FCC getting a diploma in Business Administration. It may not mean much to the average person, but I know what mountains that I have had to climb.”
Throughout the program Diamond kept excellent grades and attendance. She proved she had the determination to succeed.
“It makes what we do more fulfilling,” Ms. Mathews said. “We’re always trying to help people and go the extra mile. Sometimes you have students you can see are not trying. That discourages you. But to see a student that has a disability, seeing them do what they need to do to not fall behind, that makes it worth it. She wants to excel.”
Diamond was able to complete an externship working at the school and graduate from her program.
“I won’t let my disability deter me,” she said. “I am young, energetic and know life can be filled with fun and joy… I like FCC because it does not matter where you start at…. I am developing more and more into a business professional each day. It excites me to attend my externship. I believe more and more each day that my limitations do not have to define me.”
If you’re interested in learn how to start a career in the business administration field, consider enrolling in Florida Career College’s Business Office Administration Program.