With a broad smile and a contagious laugh, recent Ferris graduate Alisha Standen's perseverance, positive attitude and sense of humor shines through in everything she does.
Alisha, who has been deaf since the age of two, has demonstrated what is possible through family support and self-belief, and has proven that what might be assumed about you and what you can actually achieve don't always match up.
A complication from spinal meningitis caused Alisha's hearing impairment. While most children in the United States start school at the age of five, Alisha started with speech therapy and sign language classes at the age of two.
Her mother, Pat Standen, said there was a lot that Alisha couldn't do in the same way that other kids did, like watch TV and listen to music. Nevertheless, she found pleasure in other ways. For example, Alisha would place her hands on the speakers when music was playing to feel the sound's vibration.
Alisha and her mother learned how to sign by taking classes together. Pat read the same 12 children books over and over while signing them to her.
"My mom worked with me every day; the school worked with me every day on my hearing and my speech," Alisha said.
When she was nine years old, she was in one of the first groups to receive a cochlear implant at Children's Hospital in Detroit. Pat said it was the first time that Alisha heard her parents say "I love you."
"I remember when we were leaving the office that day she started jumping and pounding her feet, because she had never heard the sound of her footsteps before," Pat said. "In the process of jumping up and down she dropped the processor on the floor and the battery fell out. She immediately started crying, because she thought that it was broken for good. I quickly fixed it for her, and she was so happy again."
Growing up, Alisha always found ways to follow her interests, whether that was sports, outdoor activities or her studies. She excelled academically and graduated from Alpena High school with honors
"I never let Alisha think that she can't do something," Pat said. "There were cheerleading
and horseback riding coaches who didn't' want to work with Alisha. We just found another
coach who would."
Before starting at Ferris, Alisha earned an associate's degree from Rochester Institute of Technology, and worked as a phlebotomist at both Holland Community Hospital and at Mid-Michigan Medical Center.
After a difficult period in her life, she went to live in Clare with her parents. She applied to Ferris and began making the 120-mile round trip commute to earn her degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences.
Sandra Cook, clinical laboratory sciences coordinator in Ferris' College of Health Professions says that Alisha worked diligently and never complained.
"When discussing potential challenges in the clinical setting, she would cheerfully makes some suggestions or come up with ideas about what might work," Cook said. "The words 'I can't' or 'it won't work' are not in her vocabulary."
Alisha is interning at Covenant Healthcare, which she says is an "awesome" experience and one that has put her education into practice.
The May 2015 graduate has put in the hard work in both the classroom and the laboratory, but she wants to thank those who have helped her achieve her goal, particularly her family.
"I couldn't have done it without them," she said.
She also is appreciative of Ferris' Disability Services Office.
"Ferris has been great in making sure that I have an interpreter and notetaker during my classes," Alisha said.
She says she likes Ferris because of its small classes and attention from faculty members.
"The teachers always made sure that they are looking at me and that I had everything that I needed," she said. "I always wanted to go to college, but Ferris helped me realize my dream."
After graduation, Alisha plans use her degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences to work in a hospital setting.