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Montgomery College Student Success Stories

Role Model: Learning to Help Himself, Student/Staffer Now Helps Others
Montgomery College Today, Spring '05

Romeo ThorntonRomeo Thornton works the phones in the Career and Transfer Center at Montgomery College’s Takoma Park Campus. He expertly fields calls from anxious students and parents, helps walk-ins with their problems, assists students on the computer, and does general office work. His supervisor, Career and Transfer Center Coordinator Roberta Buckberg, thinks Thornton walks on water. “He’s the most efficient, reliable student employee I have. He’s remarkably caring and concerned about other people,” she said. “He’s a rock; he has an amazing work ethic. I feel perfectly comfortable leaving the Center in his hands.” Thornton, 28, learned responsibility the hard way: he is both visually- and hearing impaired, and relies on nobody but himself.

Thornton says he inherited his fierce independence from his number-one role model: his grandmother, who raised him and a younger sister by herself.“ We were both raised to be independent,” he said. “[My grandmother taught me] Do everything on your own before you ask someone for help.” He enrolled at Montgomery College a little over a year ago. He receives a variety of support services and accommodations through the College’s Office of Disability Support Services and the state of Maryland—in class note-takers, books-on-tape, a Kurzweil scanner to scan in textbooks, and special computer programs. Sometimes he
records his classes. And because he has a hearing disability, several of his professors speak into a microphone. Thornton does not use a guide dog; an orientation mobility teacher from the Maryland Department of Rehabilitative Services helped him learn the lay of the land, although he admits he’s still learning how to get around campus. He attends Montgomery College full time and works in the Career and Transfer Center 20 hours a week—a tough load for any student. He maintains a respectable 3.0 grade point average.

Thornton lives alone on a tight budget, and admits he’s struggling. “It’s tough working part time, going to school full time, studying, taking care of my apartment, grocery shopping. I get two to four hours of sleep every night, as a result,” he said. “Sometimes it gets me down, but I have to stay focused. I’m the only one who will give me 100 percent support. If I’m not focused, I’ll go under. Nobody will pull me out,” said Thornton. A business major, Thornton’s number one career goal is to be a model, and second, to own a modeling agency. “I must get a college degree,” he said. “If the modeling doesn’t work out, this is a fallback. “At first I was afraid of coming here,” he concluded, “but I knew a college education would be it for me.”