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 graduated from Brazosport College in 2014 with an Associates of Arts degree, had a 3.82 grade point average and earned membership in the school's Phi Theta Kappa and Honors Society organizations. 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 were the same as any other student.
"The biggest challenge was not getting lost when finding your classes during the first week of school," he said with a laugh.
That doesn't mean it was always been easy, though.
Because he was unable to drive, Alexx's grandmother, Verna Johnson, brought him to BC from his Brazoria home two days a week. Verna not only assisted getting him to and from his classes, she remained at the college all day while he earned 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 was just fun," she added. "I love being around all this young knowledge. These bright kids will be our leaders someday."
During his time at BC, Alexx was impressed at how often people are willing to help. Whether it was fellow students opening doors or the assistance provided by the college's disability services, assistance was 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 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 was always asked if I had everything I needed. Nothing was too challenging in terms of my disability. It was very normal, and that's nice."
Helping to ensure that Alexx received needed assistance was BC counselor Phil Robertson. However, Robertson admitted that Alexx didn't need much help.
"He's a real go-getter and there isn't that much he needed," Robertson said. "We've used some adaptive equipment, some desk arrangements and a few other things, but we didn't have to do too much. He's just a very smart and determined young man and didn't need much help."
Verna is 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."
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."
Determination pays off for graduating BC student