CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - College graduations are often viewed as a rite of spring. When students are awarded degrees from Johnson C. Smith University this coming Sunday, one journey will be remembered because of tenacity and triumph.
Gary Kasey was born addicted to crack in the 1980s. He lives with cerebral palsy, and in his adult life survived being homeless.
However, he views tough obstacles as new opportunities.
"When I started this journey, I didn't plan to stop until I finished," he said. "Being in a wheelchair, having a disability or whatever, I've seen what social workers can do. So it was my opportunity to give back."
Dr. LaSonya Townsend is his academic advisor.
"I don't see Gary having a disability. I'll say a 'different ability,'" she said. "He brings so much to the table spiritually in class, we'll get him to talk about his faith. We all share that."
And he takes pride in his faith.
"I've been in ministry 21 years, and how I ended up in social work is I saw us praying for people, but I wanted to be a better leader in the spiritual leader as well," Kasey said.
Credit is also due to the person who follows him and gets him from place to place.
Gary's adopted father, Richard Williams, is the muscle behind the wheels. Through four years of school, he got him to and sat in every class his son attended.
"Every class. Every class. I should be a social worker, but going to those classes made me a better person. I look at things different now," Williams said.
So different that he's halfway through completing an online degree. But Gary's learning doesn't stop here.
"I am going to grad school to get my masters," he said.
Kasey has made his mark on JCSU and will be remembered as a student who fought to make more doors on the campus ADA compliant.
"I hope me leaving here will leave a better impression on the school," Kasey said.
This fall he starts pursuing a Masters Degree at Pitt University in Pennsylvania.