Bo poses

For Bo, the crushing weight of low expectations fueled his dream and determination to succeed. Bo, who has autism, dyslexia, and other physical and learning disabilities, entered 9th grade barely able to spell nor write more than three-to-four-word sentences. During middle school, a pivotal time in an adolescent’s growth and development, Bo was told by many adults that he wasn’t “smart” and would never “amount too much.” At the same time, his mother Cynthia was told to encourage her son to find work requiring minimal skills with good job security.

Bo had much bigger dreams beyond his secondary education, and Cynthia wholeheartedly supported her son’s ambitious goals, adamantly refusing to accept a poor outlook for his potential. He dreamed of attending college and planned to major in multiple degree programs including cybersecurity. Bo first became intrigued with cybersecurity when his grandmother would not shop online fearing her private information could be hacked and stolen. Bo knew her fears were not entirely unfounded. News reports of cybercriminals breaching security systems and crippling large corporations had already placed thousands of consumers at risk. Bo also believed the Internet and wireless devices gave people convenient access to more goods, services, and information. His desire to protect his grandmother from cyber threats and to give her greater peace of mind using technology solidified Bo's dream to study cybersecurity in college.

This field of study would complement Bo’s ability to perceive visual information and identify data needed to solve problems. Although his math skills would give Bo a solid foundation for success in cybersecurity, he was scared and nervous about attending college. When Bo learned of the ESMA College Navigator program he immediately thought if navigation can help steer ships in the right direction, a “navigator” could help him achieve his college dream. And he was right! Bo says his navigator helped him better manage the big picture of college life: creating routes between classes in buildings sprawled out on campus, planning for lunch breaks and meals, socializing with other students, communicating with professors, translating a course syllabus into a daily schedule, and prioritizing assignments effectively. The one-on-one sessions with his college navigator gave Bo specific support and the guidance that he needed in real-time. Once seemingly impossible, Bo’s dream of graduating from college will come true this spring. When Bo walks across the stage to accept his college diploma, he will have completed a double major in Cybersecurity and Data Analytics with a minor in Business Management at Lasell University, with honors.

What’s next for this big dreamer? Bo summed up his future aspirations in a scholarship essay saying, “I believe that I will, not can, achieve all my dreams. I plan to start my own Cybersecurity firm and will hire people like me. Together, we will affirm that being different is and should always be embraced as a competitive advantage, not a disadvantage.”

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