Three years ago, John Covert couldn’t imagine earning a college degree – much less working toward another.

Dyslexia runs in his family, and John was diagnosed with the learning disability at the age of 5. As a young student, the Binghamton-area native was placed in special education and went on to earn an Individualized Education Program diploma rather than the typical high school degree.

Trained as a machinist, he spent a decade in the field – before he was laid off, twice, as the work headed overseas.

“I came back to school when I was 31,” he recounted. “Thankfully, the teachers my advisors gave me were outstanding. They helped me so much. I did well the first semester with the help of tutoring and the accommodations.”

But before he could enroll, he had to attain his General Education Diploma – a process that took six months of studying. He wasn’t able to obtain accommodations for his learning disability, but managed to pass the test.

“The GED test was the hardest I’ve ever taken,” he remembered.

Once at SUNY Broome, the Learning Assistance Department paid a crucial role in John’s academic success. He was able to obtain accommodations such as alternative textbooks and note-takers who aided him in his classes each semester, as well as tutoring and extra time during tests.

John graduated in June with a Business Information Management degree – and then went on to work for the Learning Assistance Department himself, aiding students with the alternative textbooks, text-to-speech programs for their computer and other accommodations that once aided him in turn.

The next step: going back to school again, this time for a degree in assistive technology.


“Three years ago, I had no idea what assistive technology was. I had no idea I would go beyond an associate degree,” he said.

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