Tim Sheets’ driving force to furthering his education at Southeast Missouri State University was his desire to drive.
After his high school graduation, Sheets, of Campbell, Mo., was active for four years in the Marine Corps. Later he was employed as a truck driver enjoying the outdoor scenery and working in mechanics - once a favorite pastime.
Suddenly, life changed drastically for him on New Year’s Eve, 1990. Sheets, a passenger in a car accident, was left partially paralyzed at 27 years old.
At first the paralysis seemed to make many of life’s simple pleasures impossible for Sheets.
“At the hospital I was shown a film of quadriplegics driving. I decided even if I couldn’t move under my own power, there were electronics that could move me and I wanted to drive again,” he says.
It was encouraging to Sheets when he was told he could get an electronically converted van and be trained to drive it. But he soon found out he was required to provide the van, something he couldn’t afford, before his name could be added to a long list of people waiting for the free conversion.
Sheets’ brother helped him purchase a van in 1991, however, his name was last on the list for a conversion and he wasn’t able to pay for the conversion himself. While waiting, he went ahead and took the driver’s training required in 1995, received his license and by the fall of the next year his name came up and the conversion was completed.
During this time, the Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist spoke to Sheets several times trying to convince him to begin a college education, but he feared failing a required ASSET test and frankly wasn’t really interested.
Years later in 2002, Sheets faced another driving dilemma. His van’s electronic system failed. Sheets found himself idling in park until someone from Vocational Rehabilitation told him they could help with the repairs if he began college.
Once again, his drive to drive kicked in.
“It was a means to an end, so I applied for a Pell Grant and enrolled,” says Sheets. He knew he had to take the ASSET test and keep going if he literally wanted to go anywhere.
Sheets began his course work at the Harry L. Crisp Bootheel Education Center (CBEC) in fall, 2002. He says it was challenging because he had been out of a learning environment for such a long time. He needed 21 unaccredited hours of English and math in order to get caught up so he could begin taking credit hours.
Sheets says, “I now have 62 hours and made the Dean’s List last semester.”
What he likes best about CBEC is its layout and size. Sheets says, “CBEC is like a Super Wal-Mart, everything you need is under one roof.”
His condition requires extra time during the day to prepare to go out. He says the location, online courses and evening courses at CBEC make it easier for him.
CBEC has several features enhancing its accessibility to the physically challenged. Sheets says he especially appreciates the automatic entrance, sloped entrances and heightened tables.
He is also pleased with the staff, faculty and his classmate’s attitude toward his handicap.
“Everyone makes me feel like I’m no different from them and they’re all willing to help anyway they can,” says Sheets. Students take class notes for him when his hands get tired and the instructors give Sheets extended testing time.
In the beginning, Sheets decision to enroll at Southeast had little to do with getting an education and planning a career, but now his reasoning has taken a different direction. He plans to complete all his course requirements at the Malden location where he anticipates graduating with a degree in business administration. His long-term plans include a career in accounting and working in an office with an outdoor view.