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Chrystal Jones, Class of 2024 (Submitted photo)
Chrystal Jones, Class of 2024 (Submitted photo)

'You don't need sight to take flight:' Turning adversity into opportunity at Empire State University


Tue, May 7th 2024 01:15 pm

Empire State University Press Release and Photo

“You don’t need sight to take flight” are the words Chrystal Jones lives by each day. Despite losing her sight at 31 years old, she’s let nothing stop her from achieving her goals, including working full time and studying for her bachelor’s degree.

“I already had a career working for the City of Buffalo and then, one day, out of nowhere, I lost my sight,” Jones said. “You go through all the phases of grief until you get to acceptance. By June, I was able to beg the doctors, ‘I have to get back to work.’ ”

Jones graduated with an associate degree in accounting in May 2020 at Eastern Gateway Community College before enrolling at Empire State University to study business administration and pursue her goal of working in accounting.

“My dream is to be an accountant,” Jones said. “With the combination of an accounting degree, as well as a business administration degree, it is going to make me a powerhouse.”

Jones said her journey was not without its challenges, tackling a full-time course load while working full time, supporting her family, and navigating challenges related to her vision. Despite the obstacles, Jones said she worked hard to challenge herself to keep up with her classmates.

“It was my disability that was pushing me back,” she said. “Even though I have the extension and accommodations from my disability, which I appreciate, I've never utilized them outside of the exams or quizzes and needing extra time. I do not ask for extensions on due dates because I always felt like, once you fall behind, you're always playing catch up.”

Reflecting on her path, Jones said staying motivated was crucial to her success.

“Even when you’re ready to give up and when you think it’s the end, keep pushing,” Jones said. “I would look through a dark tunnel and it seemed like that finish line, that light, was getting further and further away. Those were the days where I felt like I couldn’t do this. It’s a gamble on yourself because nobody can do this for us – there’s no one else that can complete that degree and get it for you.”

Jones will walk across the stage at Empire State University’s Rochester commencement May 9, with a bedazzled walking cane designed by her niece and the support of her family and friends.

“You have to do whatever it is you have to get to that goal,” Jones said. “That finish line I set for myself was not something that I had to do or that was required. This is what I need to do to prove to myself that this disability did not, and will never, disable me.”

About Empire State University

Founded in 1971 as the innovative campus of the State University of New York, Empire State University empowers learners from diverse backgrounds to achieve their educational goals. We have decades of experience providing educational access through online teaching and learning, individualized instruction, mentoring, and prior learning assessment. We build on our students’ experiences to promote their growth and drive upward mobility and economic development in New York state and beyond. SUNY Empire's 97,000 alumni are teachers, nurses, entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities and their fields. Visit www.sunyempire.edu and follow us on social media @SUNYEmpire.

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