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Student's challenge motivates him to success

Chris Rogdakis

Click here for low-resolution video of UD’s 156th Commencement

Click here for high-resolution video of UD’s 156th Commencement

Click here for low-resolution video of Jeff Shaara's address

Click here for high-resolution video of Jeff Shaara's address

Click here for Commencement 2005 photo album

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About UD’s 156th Commencement

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Commencements past

7 p.m., May 28, 2005--Chris Rogdakis, a double major in psychology and biology, joined more than 4,000 fellow graduates in the Commencement celebration in Delaware Stadium on Saturday, May 28, but he couldn’t hear the applause and cheers.

Rogdakis, 22, whose hearing has been impaired all his life, said it was a major challenge that motivated him to always work hard. He took regular classes with assistance from two interpreters provided by UD’s Office of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“I continue to struggle with my verbal capabilities, my inability to hear and how to write clearly, but it is never an excuse,” he said. “I never let it interfere with my experience at UD.”

Dave Smith, professor of biology, said Rogdakis not only overcame his disability through persistence and determination, but his impressive academic performance was evident in his rank among the top one-third of Smith’s genetics class, in which his work was graded on the same basis as the other students.

“I have seen his persistence as his adviser in the interdepartmental neuroscience program, which requires the preparation of an individual curriculum with an adviser from each department,” Smith said. “Chris was a very attentive student and was extremely focused on the content of my genetics lecture, which required paying attention to the two interpreters, who took turns presenting the information to him, as well as following the notes and diagrams I was putting on the chalkboard.”

Rogdakis said he realized the difficulty of taking the double major and the work involved and occasionally struggled to keep up with the pace in class, but he succeeded by employing a fundamental approach: “I was not afraid to ask questions, and I spent long hours at the library, working with others. I have come to realize that perfection is not the necessary component of success, but a willingness to learn, hunger for success, dedication to study and stamina to stay motivated are.”

Rogdakis, of Syosset, N.Y., who uses sign language and speaks a few words, said he is very grateful to several individuals who made a big difference in his experience at UD, among them Debbie Farris, program coordinator in the ADA office, The Communication Connection Inc. and interpreters Sarah Campbell and Doreen DeLuca, who helped Rogdakis develop a rapport with his professors and communicate with his classmates.

“My parents, Liz and Gus, played a big role,” he said. “Without their love and guidance, I would not be here. Also, I must thank my two older brothers, Michael and Evan, both of whom graduated from Hofstra University. They inspired me to work hard and taught me to appreciate the importance of education.”

Rogdakis, who describes himself as a happy-go-lucky person, said his social experience during his four years at UD was more enjoyable because of his two high school friends, Justin Barilla and Tom Cafiero, who joined him at UD. The trio and many other friends played baseball, went to parties and did “normal stuff.”

Rogdakis is planning to attend graduate school at either San Diego State University or California State University, Northridge. His goals are to earn a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and a doctorate in clinical psychology and eventually to open a rehabilitation clinic for behavioral disorders.

“Through the inspiration of my mother, a nurse who cares for so many people, I have decided I would like to give back to the community by helping others,” he said. “Providing people with alternative and creative solutions to handle their emotions will assist them in adapting to society. It is a topic of interest to me, and I would like to do research on it and eventually publish my findings. It is important that all people feel as though they belong in society.”

Rogdakis said students who have to deal with disabilities should realize that hardships are a part of life, and, while some come and go, others stay throughout a lifetime. “Throughout my own personal struggles, I know how difficult it sometimes is to try to overcome a hardship, but you just have to work hard and never quit. Do not let a hardship interfere with your dreams or goals.”

Rogdakis said his final week at UD was tough because of the many friends he has made and the fact that the University felt like home to him, but his success in the face of major hurdles helps to ease the pain of saying goodbye.

“I feel proud of my accomplishments, which have given me the courage to reach for my dreams and goals,” he said. “I take tremendous pride in the triumphs I have had so far in my academic career, which have been both challenging and immensely rewarding.”

Article by Martin Mbugua
Photo by Kathy Atkinson

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