Christopher Lipps, a 40-year-old legally blind Corbin, Ky. resident, always wanted to earn a college degree but was held back by his disability. That was then. This is now.
The online higher education model made earning a degree more accessible for him. Today, Lipps has achieved his goal and looks forward to participating in the traditional Ashford University graduation ceremony this spring.
“I can’t say it was easy, but Ashford made it possible,” he says as he models his cap and gown for his wife and 13-year-old son. “I made a promise to my father that I would finish college some day. Marching in the ceremony and accepting my diploma will be a personal triumph.”
Lipps’ struggles started early in life. At 11 months old, child abuse left him blinded in one eye and deteriorated vision in the other. Although he finished high school, he had difficulty in the traditional college environment. Unable to drive, transportation was a challenge and he felt insecure about keeping up with his classmates, he dropped out after the first semester. After that, he worked several jobs but, as his eyesight worsened, he was placed on disability.
With a passion for helping children, he began volunteering as a Christian Children’s Evangelist, working with youth at his church and traveling to neighboring towns and states. He enjoyed teaching children and comforting families in times of need, and it was then that Lipps discovered his true calling and gained confidence over the years.
In 2009, he reignited his higher education journey and decided to make good on that promise he’d made to his father. The flexibility, technology and remote capabilities of Ashford University’s online education model put a college degree within reach, and he enrolled in the early childhood education bachelor’s degree program.
With magnifying technology that enlarged and projected text from his books onto a computer screen, he was able to read coursework with his right eye. At times, he selected the option to have the computer read him the text aloud. “Accessing coursework remotely and reading at my own pace gave me the opportunity I needed to keep up with the curriculum,” he said. “In the online classroom, everyone is equal, and I had the same advantages as my virtual classmates.”
Lipps continued working at the church, raising his son and caring for the family home while taking online classes. He applied his childhood education studies to the real world, helping his wife and their pastor start Tiny Hoppers, a family daycare center for up to 20 local children. “Oftentimes, I referred to my text book as we were making decisions and developing the best possible environment for the kids,” he said.
“Two days after I handed in my very last school assignment, my father passed away,” Lipps said. “It’s almost as if he waited for me to bring closure to earning my degree — something I’d promised and worked hard to accomplish.”
Lipps is graduating cum laude on May 5, 2013 and looks forward to setting foot on the Ashford University campus in Clinton, Iowa where he will meet many of his cyberspace classmates face-to-face for the very first time. His wife and son will be in the audience at the commencement ceremony.
“I am grateful for Ashford University,” he said. “Online education levels the playing field for people from all backgrounds, regardless of their challenges or walks of life. I am proud to have the opportunity to join my classmates in a celebration of what we accomplished together.”
So, what’s next for Lipps? He’s already enrolled and pursuing a master’s degree in organizational management at Ashford University.
About Ashford University
Ashford University is defining the modern college experience by combining the heritage of a traditional campus with the flexibility and effectiveness of online learning. The University provides a vibrant learning community where high-quality programs and leading-edge technology create a dynamic, immersive and stimulating learning experience. The University offers practical and progressive associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs online, as well as bachelor’s degree programs at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. Ashford University – where heritage meets innovation. For more information, please visit www.ashford.edu or call Shari Winet Rodriguez, vice president of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.
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