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College graduate triumphs over physical hurdles

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Posted: Jun 8, 2014 2:55 PM

Updated: Jun 8, 2014 2:55 PM

LAKE JACKSON, Texas (AP) As Brazosport College students received their diplomas recently, preparing to start the next stage of their academic or professional lives, one student took a path to commencement most would consider unusual.

To hear Alexx Aplin tell it, though, it wasn't different at all.

Aplin was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a hereditary condition better known as "brittle bone disease." As the nickname might suggest, Aplin's bones are more brittle and prone to fracture than normal, leading to a potential host of health problems if not properly treated. Despite this setback, Aplin maintains a healthy degree of autonomy, getting around by means of a wheelchair and the help of his grandmother, who comes with him to the college to open some non-automatic doors.

"We're all here for the same reason," Aplin told The Facts (http://bit.ly/1l6WC1z) of Brazoria County about his college experience. "It wasn't all that different from a normal student."

Yet Aplin isn't a "normal student" by traditional metrics, either. Graduating with a 3.84 grade-point average and with membership in the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, Aplin was named one of the 14 Distinguished Students in the spring 2014 commencement class, in recognition for his stellar academic record and participation in volunteer activities.

"I think it's probably because I'm too much of a perfectionist," Aplin said about his achievements, laughing. "I don't particularly like to do anything less than my best, as far as academics goes."

Adjusting to college life was no different than the adjustments he made through the rest of his life, Aplin said.

"When you rely on other people for help, you lose the ability to deny help," he said. "I try to do as much for myself as possible, so one of the biggest challenges was trying to figure out what I could do to minimize that. I just had to approach things differently than most people."

Growing up with his condition was tough, but not the unending rocky road one might assume, both Aplin and his mother, Lisa, who also has the disease, said.

"I think the hardest part was to realize there were things I couldn't do that other kids could, and that it was always going to be that way," Alexx Aplin said. "My family was really good about making sure whatever I could do, I did."

"I did as much as I could," Lisa Aplin said about her childhood with osteogenesis imperfecta. "I graduated from high school, I dated, I was on the drill team. I didn't, and as far as I'm aware, Alex didn't, have any problem with children bullying or being mean. They tried not to have activities for the class to do that I couldn't."

The trickiest part of navigating the world with osteogenesis imperfecta isn't even the physical challenges, Alexx Aplin said. It's dealing with preconceived notions that are well-meaning but incorrect.

"People think I'm blind or deaf," he said. "They don't want to ask questions, but I encourage questions, because it's the only way we learn."

Alexx's presence at volunteer events and doing public service work was a natural response to the assistance he has gotten over the years, he said.

"Because I've had plenty of help over the years, I felt like I needed to give back," Alexx Aplin said. "I felt like I needed to give back. If you can help someone else, why not?"

Her son had always shown an aptitude for academics, Lisa Aplin said.

"He taught himself to read at 4, or we discovered he could read when he was 4," she said. "I had done workbooks with him during the day, but one night we were watching TV and my husband pulled the guide up on the satellite, and Alexx wanted him to go back. Alexx had read it. We were completely floored."

With his associates of arts degree in hand, Alexx is interested in pursuing a career in journalism.

"Right now it's getting my foot in the door," he said.

Whatever he decides, the future looks bright for Alexx, his mother said.

"He's always been smart and eager to learn," Lisa Aplin said. "I hope he's able to find a career he loves and excels at, and nothing stops him fulfilling his dreams.

"I don't think his condition will stop him. I don't think he'll let it."

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Information from: The Facts, http://www.thefacts.com

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Editor's note: This is an AP Member Exchange shared by The Facts of Brazoria County.

Topics: Exchange-Disabled But Capable

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