SC man graduates from college despite injuries, challenges

Roddrick Brown’s smile lit up his cousin’s living room. With only five days until his college graduation from Limestone University, he and his mother, Odessa Farr, were filled with excitement. His first goal? To find a job and save up to open a youth center.

“That’s the whole goal of why I went to school,” Brown, 27, said.

You’d never guess, with the unwavering confidence in his voice, that there was a time when no one would have thought he’d make it this far.

In 2005, at age 11, Brown was hit by a car on Wofford Street in Spartanburg when he missed a stop sign while riding his bike, sustaining multiple brain injuries. For two weeks, he lay in a coma. He then woke with memory loss and permanent paralysis on the left side of his body.

“It was challenging because as a mother, I didn’t want him to leave my sight. I didn’t want him to go anywhere. They wanted me to put him in McCarthy Teszler, but from the time that he got to the hospital to the time he got home, he started remembering more and he started doing more, so I did not want to put him in that type of environment,” Farr said.

Farr believed in her son’s ability to overcome his injuries and return to a regular classroom. She had Brown tested at the Spartanburg School District Two office and it was determined that he could return with an aide, who helped him daily until the eleventh grade.

“He went from being in a wheelchair to a walker and then he started using a one-arm cane. He was using a walker when he graduated,” Farr said. “When he walked across the stage, they set off fireworks for him.”

Brown then went on to Greenville Technical College, where he studied business, and then transferred to Limestone University where he double-majored in business management and human resources.

Brown worked his way through college and faced both financial challenges and challenges due to lack of accessibility. For instance, Brown had to temporarily drop out during his first semester of college because he didn’t have a wheelchair and couldn’t make it from his dorm to class on time on foot. He was able to re-enroll because Shriners Hospital was able to provide one for him.

“What really kept me going was just that I didn’t want to quit something that I started, that’s big. I wanted to graduate; I know there are opportunities out there for me,” Brown said.

He’s also been very active on both of his campuses, as a work-study in various administrative offices and advocating for improvements to accessibility for students with disabilities, such as installing push-button door openers in buildings that didn’t have them.

“He never let any of the obstacles he has faced interfere with achieving his goals. he never made excuses or asked for special treatment; instead, he pushed himself to not only complete all assignments but to excel in them,” his professor Tonya Adair said.

This determination has seen him through doubts of his own and those of others at every turn. Brown earned his driver’s license, completed high school, and will be graduating with a B.S. in Business Management and Human Resources and he puts all of his successes to faith in God and in himself. Being positive is key, he said.

“There was a time when I was depressed, I asked God, ‘why? I didn’t do nothing to deserve this.’,” Brown said. “But as I got older, I built a relationship with God and had faith and pushed myself. Once you’ve got it into your head that you can do it, and you wake up every day in a great mood that you’re going to do this and you’re going to do it the way you want to do it, the only thing that can stop you is yourself.”

After graduation, Brown hopes to find a job to first pay off his college debts so he can receive his diploma, get some hands-on experience, and then save up to make his dream of opening a youth center come true. He plans to open it in Spartanburg County for low income families.

“I just enjoy kids. I wanted to make it for people who don’t have a lot of opportunities to try to help assist and improve things, make it a little easier on people,” Brown said.