Success Stories

Artistic rendering of hands with the quote “Having always imagined myself in a fairly slim minority, I suddenly saw that I was in a vast company. Difference unites us. While each of these experiences can isolate those who are affected, together they compose an aggregate of millions whose struggles connect them profoundly. The exceptional is ubiquitous; to be entirely typical is the rare and lonely state.” by Andrew Sullivan, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity

Over the years there have been countless successful students who have proven that with a positive attitude and a little support, you can overcome most anything. We are always looking for more stories to tell—please share your successes with us so that we can continue to inspire our students to reach for their highest goals!

An Open Letter to Students:

I am a disabled person, and I’ve always worked hard to hide my disabilities, not to complain and not to show them.

Due to abuse of alcohol and drugs at a young age, and a rather terrible childhood, I became an alcoholic with some body damage that could not be repaired. I have severe test anxiety, and worse math anxiety. There are times when writing is a pointless task as my hands can’t grip a pen without extreme pain.

I was raised to work hard and never ask for help, to take pride in what you have done yourself. Yet I found myself needing to ask for help. I felt embarrassed and ashamed to have to ask for help. I felt less than. I drug my feet at the suggestion from my teachers to contact the DRC. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t need to ask anyone for help, that I could just power through this. That was the worst idea I have ever had. Once I had no other option, and was about to fail classes, be put on academic probation, and slew of other problems, I walked into the DRC.

The staff of the DRC has worked hard to make sure I have been able to succeed by getting me reasonable accommodations for what has limited my abilities to do what I came to Bellevue College for; to learn and have a career when I leave.  There are even times that they have listened to me swear and cry, when I felt trapped by my disabilities.  The DRC has helped to be who I really am, a person just like everyone else, who sometimes needs help.

If for whatever reason you are hesitating to ask for help, know that no matter the reason, the DRC will never judge you. Since I asked the DRC for help, I have had no better advocate, no better mentors, and no better friends at Bellevue College.


A Phi Theta Kappa Student, Computer Programming

Steve Ferreira

Steve graduated from high school in 2007 and there were many teachers at the school who didn’t think he would be able to go on to higher education. They thought his disability would prevent him from being successful. Steve proved them wrong when he graduated from Bellevue College in June 2013 with an Associates Degree with a concentration in Communications.

Steve Ferreira

As a result of birth trauma, Steve was born with cerebral palsy, making it difficult for him to make his muscles do what his mind tells them to do. All of his limbs are affected,  and with his “athletoid quadriplegic” cerebral palsy, he cannot walk independently. He uses a motorized wheelchair to get around campus. He types with one finger and is surprisingly fast.

In addition to physical disabilities, Steve has some learning differences. Math is especially hard since it is difficult for him to remember formulas. Bellevue College provided Steve with scanned textbooks as well as a note-taker when needed, and he was allowed extra time to finish tests.

It took Steve six years to finish his degree, but he is very proud of his accomplishments.  In addition to his class work, Steve was involved in the college leadership program and in student clubs, and he obtained a job as a Peer 2 Peer coordinator. At a Student of Color conference in Yakima, WA in 2013, he led a workshop on Identity for People with Disabilities.

Steve is an international athlete and has competed in Track and Field — receiving a gold medal in 2010 in the Czech Republic, and a silver medal at the 2013 Paralympic Trials in Indiana.

In 2012, Steve started a non-profit organization to advocate for people with disabilities. He speaks at local colleges and intends to cross the country to spread the word about what it’s like to live a disabled life.

In 2015, Steve was voted “2015 BEST College Athlete” and “2015 BEST Amateur Athlete” in KING TV’s The Best of Western Washington.

Jeanna Dance

Jeanna Dance graduated fall quarter 2006 with her Associate of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education!

In 1991 at the age of seven Jeanna was diagnosed with a magnablastoma brain tumor. At that time, the technology was not as well advanced and many people diagnosed with this type of brain tumor did not survive. Treatment was, by today’s standards, aggressive and radical.

photo of Jeanna Dance

Doctors at that time gave Jeanna’s family little hope that Jeanna would ever ride a bike or go to school again. Rehabilitation was largely a family and personal goal. Jeanna stated that somehow she managed to get through elementary school without accommodations and finally in junior high she did receive an accommodation plan which helped, but there were still negative attitudes about her completion. School psychologists and teachers stated Jeanna may not be able to graduate and should just remain in Special Education until the age of 21 and finish with a certificate.

That was not in Jeanna’s plan! She said she “grabbed the bull by the horns” and graduated with plans to attend Bellevue College. She investigated her options for college and decided to come to BC, largely because of its DRC (Disability Resource Center) office.

Jeanna was focused on her goals and school taking every opportunity to use her accommodations. They included extended time testing and used Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition technology. With persistence, motivation and grit, Jeanna met her educational goals and plans to have a career teaching children.

Jeanna does still ride a bicycle. She wants others to know that they should “Shoot for the stars. Just go for it!!”

Rick Eldridge

Richard (Rick) Eldridge graduated from Bellevue College winter quarter 2005. He was a regular to the DRC and he played a large roll in awareness activities on campus during his years here pursuing his transfer degree.

photo of Rick EldridgeRick’s life was forever changed on one fall day in September 1997 when his vehicle crashed on the freeway. Rick is quadriplegic and uses a power chair and assistive technology to be the independent person he had always been. He realized that he could either live in a nursing home the rest of his life or get an education and get his life back. So, he began classes at Bellevue College in 2002.


Rick was accepted at the University of Washington and has been taking classes there, working towards a degree in psychology. He plans to attend graduate school and hopes to also receive a minor in rehabilitation counseling with an emphasis somewhere in assistive technology.

Rick is a success story for sure. When he wants something he goes for it. His advocacy skills are enviable and one day we hope his talents will be put to use teaching younger people how to set appropriate goals, develop their own resources, organize their work and lives and stay focused and on their paths!

Rick consistently held a 4.0 GPA while attending Bellevue College and he maintains relationships with many of the faculty, staff and administrators he met during his time at BC.

Last Updated May 25, 2016