Grace Kennedy

When Laboratory Science Technology student Grace Kennedy, 20, accepted the Overcoming Challenges Award from the American Chemical Society last fall, she moved an audience of more than 300 to tears as she described the importance of perseverance when facing “bumps in the road of life.” The self-assured young woman at the lectern just three years earlier had been a struggling teenager filled with self-doubt about her future.

Born with a rare genetic condition that left her with hearing loss, blindness in her left eye, limited movement of her left shoulder, and only part of a kidney, the Morrow, Ohio, native already had endured years of frustration. Classmates teased her, teachers assumed she had learning disabilities, and fellow teens ridiculed “the short, blind girl who couldn’t hear” when she became a member of the school’s marching band drum line.

She has flourished at RIT, which has everything Kennedy sought in a college — dozens of technology programs, a large deaf population, an accessible campus and a strong disability services program.

“I cried when I got my acceptance letter,” she says. “I knew that I would finally fit in and be accepted for who I am.”

Kennedy has grown into a focused student of science under the guidance of LST Program Director Todd Pagano.

“In all my years of teaching, I have rarely seen a work ethic and pleasant attitude like Grace possesses,” he says. “Every day she impresses me in new ways.”

Kennedy is a member of Alpha Sigma Theta sorority, the Metal Works Club, the RIT Ambulance Club, and the Kendo Japanese Sword Fighting Club.

Kennedy, who is spending the summer at Stanford University as a research intern, “knows exactly where the road of life can take her,” says Pagano. “And she has the character to get there.”

This story appeared in the Spring/Summer 2007 issue of FOCUS Magazine.

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