Mississippi College

Blind Student Marrisha Jedrzejek Achieves Success at Mississippi College

May 10, 2013

Many prayers, persistence and a tremendous support network helped Marrisha Jedrzejek thrive at Mississippi College.

Visually impaired since birth, and totally blind since age 15, Jedrzejek studied hard the past four years on the Clinton campus. Her efforts are paying off. Marrisha graduates May 11 with a bachelor’s degree in political science at the Christian university.

“I feel like my prayers have been answered,” says the 23-year-old Pearl resident. “I had help from a lot of the professors.”

Mississippi College’s close-knit family environment and strong efforts to be fully accessible to handicapped students and visitors made a huge difference in her life as an undergraduate. “If I was at a really big school, it might be tougher. This was a more secure, safe campus.”

As Marrisha got around the Clinton campus with her walking stick, classmates, Department of Public safety officers, faculty and others often took a stroll with her.

Walking on stage before thousands of people at Saturday’s spring commencement will be the next major step for the Rochester, New York native.

Her parents, Christine and Joseph Jedrzejek and her middle sister, Katie, will be proudly sharing her shining moment as the 2009 Mississippi School for the Blind valedictorian receives her Mississippi College diploma at the A.E. Wood Coliseum.

After receiving a seeing eye dog this summer, Marrisha expects to return to the Christian university in January 2014 to start work on a master’s degree in psychology. She wants to become a psychologist and help others, from military personnel to first responders. God is continuing to use her, she says.

Her compassionate heart, and determination to earn a college degree despite obstacles in her path are some of the things that impressed Mississippi College political science professor Glenn Antizzo.

“Marrisha has overcome tremendous adversity to get to the point of graduating this Saturday,” Antizzo said. But “she has never, however, allowed her blindness or other health issues, to get in the way. Utilizing modern technology and a small network of friends in a variety of classes, she appears to have developed her own system of taking and compiling notes to study.”

While Marrisha has undergone 31 eye surgeries during her young life, she’s refused to let blindness get in her way as she pursues her goals. An inspiration to others, her push to succeed has won her many friends.

“Rarely have I ever seen a student as well liked as Marrisha,” Antizzo said. “It appears as if virtually every student, faculty member, administrator and staff member at Mississippi College knows her and has taken an interest in her success,” he said. “And as much love as she gets from the students, she gives as much back.”

Sam Gleese of Jackson, a leader with the National Federation for the Blind, says improvements in technology are making it easier for blind students across America to earn college degrees. However, getting through college is still “quite a challenge” for blind people.

“Technology plays a large part. Everything is computerized these days,” says Gleese, a staff member with the City of Jackson’s Office of Human and Cultural Services. With ear and I-phones, “blind persons can do like sighted persons now and pull up all kinds of information.”

The blind will continue to battle problems finding a job amid a slowly improving USA economy. “The job market is difficult, no matter who you are.”

New technology for her MC studies and communications has blessed Jedrzejek. Every day, she uses a Braille Note, a device that’s like a computer with no screen. It allows her to check her emails, get on Facebook and do other things.

But the Mississippian is making progress in other ways since arriving at MC. “I’ve gotten a lot of social skills. I had a very shy personality,” Jedrzejek said. “I’ve learned to live on my own and not call my parents every day for everything.”

MC’s Class of 2013 is comprised of many talented achievers who will pursue graduate studies, law, medical and dental schools, join the military, work as missionaries around the globe and launch careers.

Maggie Wester, 22, a 2009 Caledonia High graduate, came to the Baptist-affiliated university because of its medical sciences program, and is earning a bachelor’s degree in biology. She hopes to become a pediatrician in a few years. “I know that I am prepared for that next step into medical school thanks to the professors and courses offered at MC.”

James Turcotte, 24, is headed to Louisiana State University in the fall to pursue a master of music degree in vocal performance. He takes his Mississippi College music degree to the Bayou State to continue his dream of becoming an opera singer. “MC exceeded all of my expectations,” said the Clinton High graduate. “Clinton is my hometown and I grew more as a person and a musician than I ever thought I would here.”

Erika Rutland, 22, who grew up in the small town of Ruth, Mississippi transferred to Mississippi College as a junior after two years at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. “I’ve had some of the best professors,” she said. With her bachelor’s degree in hand, she will enroll in the medical sciences graduate program at MC in the fall. It will equip her to apply to dental school.

As a graduate student, Erika will continue to utilize the latest technology, research facilities and labs at the university’s new medical sciences building and be around friends. “I have absolutely loved being a student at Mississippi College.”

Photo: MC senior Marrisha Jedrzejek and Congressman Gregg Harper. She worked as a staffer in the congressman's Pearl office one summer.

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