By Ed Weirauch
When Barry Bealor made the decision to attend Williamson College of the Trades, he didn’t realize that his first days on campus would turn out to be one of the most trying times of his life.
Forced to adjust and orient himself to college life in a wheelchair, Barry responded to this challenge by drawing on the support of his family.
In early August prior to starting at Williamson, Barry underwent surgery on his left knee to repair his broken patella. Screws were inserted in his knee to facilitate healing. He expected a tough rehabilitation regiment… but not one that would last a full year.
“My body actually rejected the screws, that was the real issue,” Barry explains. “Because of that, four surgeries were required over the next several months to address my knee issue.”
Barry says the day his parents drove him to Williamson was especially tough because for over two weeks, he relied on them for help with everything. “Now my parents were leaving and yet I had really become dependent on them. I felt like I wasn’t as ready as I had thought.”
But in other ways, he was more than ready to begin his college career. Barry hardly missed a class, made it home to southern New Jersey every weekend for physical therapy and just found a way to make things work. Whether he was in a wheelchair or on crutches, he did whatever it took.
“By November, I thought ‘I have to get out of this wheelchair.’ I was doing OK but as soon as I could, I started transitioning to crutches.”
Perhaps unintentionally, Barry was a perfect example of two of Williamson’s core values: diligence and faith. Faith got him started each day and diligence then kept him going.
“While I was growing up, I went to church with my family once or twice every week, so faith was always important to me. But I never had to actually rely on it,” says Barry today, two years beyond his wheelchair and crutches days. “My rehab was a struggle that made our morning chapel sessions especially important.”
At Williamson, each day starts with a non-denominational worship service that lasts around 30 minutes. Barry remembers these times as calming, enabling him to refresh his mindset and draw on his faith.
“I would remind myself that my situation was temporary, it would end some day and that other people faced bigger obstacles. There’s always somebody who has it worse. And I’d pray on it.”
The youngest of four children, Barry recalls his 29-year-old brother confiding his admiration for his ‘little brother’ to their parents. His brother often remarked, “I wouldn’t be able to do that. “’ “I think at that point he was looking up to me,” Barry thinks back now with pride.
Did he think ever about just delaying Williamson, giving his leg time to heal as some suggested? “I didn’t want to be delayed, or fall behind at Williamson, or be 21 when everyone else was 18 or 19.”
Barry really embraced the Williamson life by becoming involved with campus activities and serving as a founding member of the Student Activities Council.
Even among his physical challenges, Barry points out there was another challenge facing him in those early Williamson days: structure. “We learned the value of being on time with a presentable appearance, basically how to show up ready to work. I would have had it easier to just wear sweatpants over that big cast of mine but that’s not how an actual job works.”
Now Barry is in his final semester as a Power Plant Technology student with a clean bill of health. He’s anticipating a second round of interviews with more than one company. And through his internship with IHI Power Services, a national company with local clients, as well as his work with within the campus buildings, Barry offers a motto shared by many Williamson men: he’s ready on day one.
And that’s just the beginning. In conversation, Barry describes Williamson as a place that sets up young men for their future, instills a greater sense of responsibility and accountability, and instills a ‘make it happen’ attitude while enabling its students to enter the work world debt free. He sums up his Williamson experience with one word: “life-changing.”
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