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Josh Brandon’s experience at ACU – like many others in his life – has been painful.They come suddenly, but never unexpectedly: the spasms of pain in his legs, the piercing headaches. Josh needs braces to walk, but the journey he’s on has been eased with the support he has found on campus.
“Having cerebral palsy helps me understand sometimes life doesn’t go as you plan,” Josh said. “Truth be told, God put the right people in my life.”
Josh is the first person from his family to attend college, and he knew for a long time that if he did, it would be a place with Christ at the center.
He found ACU online and applied, but attending would be difficult because his family could not afford the tuition.
“My parents aren’t really in a place financially to support me,” he said. “We started praying, and the money started flowing in.”
Still, it wasn’t enough, and as the first day of classes approached, it seemed he wasn’t going to be able to fulfill his dream.
“This was where my heart was bent on coming,” he said. “There were times when I didn’t think I’d be able to do college. It really just depended on the day.”
Then, as Welcome Week was starting in Abilene, Josh’s admissions counselor called him. “Come on down,” Josh heard over the line. “We’ll work it out when you get here.”
In all, Josh cobbled together five scholarships to fund most of his tuition. He stepped on campus the first time during Welcome Week his freshman year.
Almost immediately, Josh plugged in with a group of freshmen known as the “pirate monks,” an accountability group begun by former Mabee Hall director and graduate student Jordan Bunch (M.A. ’13).
“Jordan and I are really good friends,” Josh said. “He’s been instrumental in my life since I met him.”
With help from faculty and staff like James Scudder and Scott Self in the Alpha Scholars program, Josh has thrived at ACU, episodes of pain notwithstanding.
Josh has a mild case of cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that in his case combines with a second, unknown condition causing the brain to misfire and send pain signals at random to Josh’s legs and head.
He maintains good humor about the condition, describing his walk with the braces as “penguin-like” and lamenting their cost by noting, “You have to give one leg to get two.”
And the pain has opened his eyes, he said.
“It’s the pain that reminds me that God is still there,” Josh said. “When the pain’s not there, I can see so much more clearly, and I can better see pain in other people’s lives and see how intimately He’s working.”
In his own life, Josh has seen God work through ACU’s donors, who helped fund his education and made it possible for him to get new braces while he continued classes.
Asked what he would say to the donors who made his education possible, he replied: “Wow and thank you.”
“You’re not only providing me a present,” he said,” but also a future – and a chance to help others. Not only has the money helped physically, but it’s helped me emotionally and spiritually.”
Learning he had received the scholarship that would allow him to attend ACU, Josh said, was “liberating.”
“There weren’t barriers anymore,” he said. “There were opportunities. There were possibilities.”