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Student with Usher Syndrome earns Aggie ring through focused work and passion

Tunnel vision:

Student earns Aggie ring through focused work and passion

By Victoria Daugherty, The Battalion (Texas A&M) 4/15/11


As is custom this time of year, thousands of students will have 90 hours of schoolwork rewarded with an Aggie ring. One student, however, accomplished 90 hours without ever hearing a lecture and with hardly any eyesight.

Brittany Sikorski is a senior geography major who has a condition known as Usher Syndrome, leaving her legally blind and deaf.

"Many people can not tell that I am blind and deaf since I don't wear hearing aids. I still have central vision and can read small font, but I cannot tell right away if a person is about to pass right by me," Sikorski said.

Many students take for granted being able to read, listen and take notes for class, but Sikorski does not let her condition stop her from getting her degree. To be successful, she found other tactics when it came to interpreting lectures and studying for each class.

During the first two years of her college career, Sikorski was a zoology major and used mostly sign language interpreters. As classes got harder, however, it became more difficult for her to try to understand what they were trying to translate since the vocabulary level got harder. She then began using transcribers, which are people who go to class and type the professor's lecture. As she entered her senior year, the classes became more hands on, so she began using a mix of both sign language interpreters for the lab-focused courses and transcribers for the more lecture-focused courses.

"It is hard enough to read and take notes for exams, I really can't imagine doing that without eyesight or hearing," said Katelyn Allen, a senior psychology major. "I really impressed that she can do that, I don't think I could."

Due to her visual problems, she was allowed extra time to exams, but most of the time chose not to.

"I wanted to overcome the challenge and still be able to compete with anyone else, just like it will be in the real world," Sikorski said.

People often ask her why she challenges herself so much, to which she says that she is too stubborn and independent to care for special treatment. This past August, Sikorski received a guide dog from the LeaderDog program in Michigan to help further her independence.

"It has been a tough journey for me, but I love it and wouldn't change any of my experiences, both good and bad," she said.

Sikorski also said the disabilities department has been great in helping her with accommodations and supporting her in any way that they can. Those who know of her accomplishments are encouraged and impressed.

"I'm very proud of her and proud of all the hard work that she does. I am so excited that she is getting her Aggie ring," said Alicia Guevara, her counselor at the disabilities office.

Sikorski's hard work and determination serve as an inspiration to others, and her positive attitude reflects her success in joining her classmates Friday at the Clayton W. Williams Jr. Alumni Center.

"It has been quite a challenge for me to overcome and to fully accept and embrace who I am," Sikorski said. "I have the best support system anyone could ask for with my family and friends.

Being a second-generation Aggie, I fell in love with the traditions and the Twelfth Man growing up, and am thrilled to be getting my Aggie ring."

Brittany Sikorski