Student Spotlight: Tommy Jackson

Tommy Jackson

Like many seniors, Tommy Jackson is anxiously awaiting graduation spring 2019. He has worked hard and is ready to claim his diploma. However, Tommy is not your average senior.

Tommy has fond memories of growing up in Mobile, Alabama. He developed a deep love for Mardi Gras, particularly the parades. However, things changed in 1996. At the end of his senior year of high school, Tommy was unexpectedly diagnosed with a brain tumor. The tumor, although benign, caused damage to the optic nerve, resulting in a loss of his eye sight. In a matter of only 24 hours, Tommy went from high school graduation on a Sunday to an extensive surgery on Monday.  And this was only the beginning.

After an additional two surgeries and five weeks of radiation, Tommy was tumor free. Despite this victory, the road ahead of him was long, as he adjusted to his new way of living with minimal sight. This transition for Tommy was not easy. He struggled at first; but through rehabilitation, strong support from his church, and most important of all, love and encouragement from his family, Tommy adjusted. It was while Tommy was in the rehabilitation center that he met his good friend and mentor, Stephen Sullivan. Sullivan was eventually the one who led Tommy to SOUTH.

Tommy graduated from Bishop State in 2007 with a degree in Computer Science. Sullivan, an alumnus from the University of South Alabama, suggested South as a great place for Tommy to continue his education. Turns out Sullivan was right. Looking for a change from Computer Science, Tommy decided to major in Management at the Mitchell College of Business. When asked, “Why the Mitchell College of Business?” Tommy said, “I have always heard it was a good school. It has a good reputation, and it was close to home.” Tommy went on to say that what he loves most about MCOB is how good they have been at helping him pick the right classes. This personal academic support was important to Tommy. He added, “They also care about my academic and professional future. I like all my teachers. They have been very kind to me.” But it seems Tommy may have a favorite. He mentioned being especially fond of Dr. Jeanne Maes. Dr. Maes is Tommy’s advisor and teaches his Management 305 Organization and Communication class as well as Management 462 Negotiation and Communication. “There is just something special about her. She always made sure I was comfortable and made a special effort to reach out to me. That being said, she is also not afraid to put me to work!”

But the academic support and personal touch are not the only things Tommy likes about South. He went on to share his appreciation for the scholarship opportunities MCOB has provided. “I have received about two scholarships a year.” These scholarships assisted Tommy with everything from books and providing financial support enabling Tommy to rely less on student loans to finish his degree. Tommy is particularly grateful for the scholarships offered by Dr. Paul Petri and Jake and Pat Gosa. He was impressed with the time the Gosas sat with Tommy and his family during the Mitchell Scholar’s Banquet last year. He expressed how much it meant to his mother to meet the Gosa family.

With over 20 years of work and volunteer experience with the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, Tommy now sits on its advisory council. He serves as secretary where he is responsible for taking the meeting notes. He works for the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind as a computer lab assistant. In this role he helps other clients improve their computer skills. He is also responsible for the maintenance of the computers. This includes maintaining software programs such as Zoom Text XTRA. Zoom Text XTRA is a magnifier and screen reader to assist the visually impaired, as well as a voice that reads documents, selected text, websites and e-books.

Tommy says his life experiences have left him with a desire to help the disabled. After graduation, Tommy plans to continue his work at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind and hopes to pursue an office in the business world. SOUTH will miss Tommy in the hallways and classrooms, but we are confident this special senior will continue to do great things in the years to come.