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Student with Disability Shares Story of Transition to College - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Student with Disability Shares Story of Transition to College

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It's the time of year when college decision letters are flooding the mailboxes of high school seniors, signaling the beginning of a big lifestyle change.

Thursday night, a University of Virginia student is sharing his story about transitioning to college with a disability. 

James Cassar has relied on his positive attitude, UVA's Learning Needs and Evaluation Center, and a little help from his friends to adjust to his first year of college. Now, he's sharing his outlook to help other students get ready for what's ahead.

This is the first time Cassar has been on his own.

"You definitely have to feel more independent, kind of grow up, be adult," Cassar said.

He's spent his first year of college juggling school and his work for the student newspaper, the Cavalier Daily. His cerebral palsy is taking a backseat. 

Cassar reached out to the Learning Needs and Evaluation Center for help getting online versions of his textbooks.

"Walking with a huge backpack is a huge burden to carry for me," Cassar said. 

The center helps students with disabilities transition to college smoothly. 

"Coming to college is a huge transition. There are a ton of changes you're having to manage on your own but when you're also managing a disability that's just a whole extra set of challenges that you have to manage," said Debbie Berkeley, assistant director of UVA's Learning Needs and Evaluation Center. 

Cassar says the key is knowing his needs, and not being afraid to ask for help.

"You're on your own and you're definitely independent so they're going to loosen up a bit so you really need to know ‘this is what I need' and you need to talk to someone," Cassar said. 

Cassar is grateful to the people who have given him a helping hand this year. 

"When I was getting textbooks from the mail room, giant Amazon packages, someone actually walked me home," Cassar said. 

And now, he wants to pay it forward. 

"I could have it so much worse and I'm glad that I don't but I can appreciate that I want to help people that do have it worse because I'm lucky," Cassar said. 

Just a few weeks ago Cassar volunteered at the "Life After High School" transition conference and resource fair for students with disabilities. 

He hopes sharing his positive experiences will help other students get ready for the road ahead.

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