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Josh’s Run: How a student with learning disabilities is clearing hurdles in pursuit of a degree

About This Video

This video is part of a yearlong Chronicle visual series that highlights the challenges facing students from underrepresented and underserved communities. The series is part of the Different Voices of Student Success project, which is supported by the Ascendium Education Group.

The video was shot and edited by Michael Theis. Carmen Mendoza, a senior web producer, assisted with production. Luna Laliberte, editorial-events coordinator, arranged the interviews. Erica Lusk, senior photo and media editor, directed the project.

Josh Hansen has faced many challenges due to autism-spectrum disorder. “I thought that I was different from everybody else in a bad way, that all of these things about me, I wouldn’t fit into certain cliques in public school because of the way I was as a person and how I acted.”

Thanks to supportive parents and the staff of Wye River Upper School for college-bound students in Centreville, Md., Josh gained a fresh perspective that helped him to grow as a person. “I came to learn at Wye River to embrace my differences and I don’t let anyone, like, tell me otherwise.”

The pandemic created new hurdles for Josh as he finished high school and started to pursue a liberal-arts degree at a community college. He struggled in the online environment. Then he found Beacon College, a private institution for students with learning disabilities in Leesburg, Fla. Here, Josh studies in a supportive setting. He maintains his physical health and manages muscle issues in his legs as a member of the track team. Participating in the theater program helps his mental well-being.

“What I like about performing is that it gives me a chance to kind of become something different, to kind of like get away from anything in the real world that is either bothering everyone or bothering us individually, and just allow the imagination to kind of take over.”