By Stephen Ruiz
John Paul Grigsby transferred to Beacon College as a junior in search of a school better suited to teach a student with ADHD.
Grigsby’s academic struggles continued, at least early on. Then a professor told the Class of 2006 graduate that the staff at the Lake County college for students with learning disabilities was not going to abandon him.
No way, no how.
“That turned a light on in my head that [had me thinking], ‘Well, shoot, if they’re not going to give up on me, I can’t give up on myself,’’’ he said.
For nearly 15 years, Grigsby, 41, has worked as an activities assistant in the activities department for The Glen Retirement System in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. He credits Beacon and Dr. Shelly Chandler with steering him toward his dream job.
Chandler has worked at Beacon for 18 years and is now the provost. While Grigsby was an undergraduate, she was the chair of the human services department. She also was his academic adviser.
Grigsby, who was diagnosed with ADHD while in the third grade, majored in history at the University of the Ozarks in Arkansas but sought a course of study with more career options. On Chandler’s suggestion, he switched to human services.
“When we met, she would go over my strengths and weaknesses and things to work on and things that I’m doing well at,’’ Grigsby said. “I remember her telling me that she felt this field, working at a retirement community, would be a really good fit for me. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I was looking for a career and I listened to her and thought, ‘Why not?’’’
When Grigsby was a senior, Chandler helped arrange an internship for him at Alterra Healthcare in Leesburg. That experience confirmed Grigsby was headed down the right career path.
“He was always very kind and patient,’’ said Chandler, who keeps a picture of Grigsby, his girlfriend then and herself in her office. “He had a mild manner about him, and I just thought he’s going to connect well with an older population.’’
Besides assisting in setting up activities for The Glen’s residents, Grigsby also helps them with medical appointments — the COVID-19 pandemic has lessened those responsibilities for now — and delivers mail and packages.
“It’s been a wonderful, wonderful job,’’ Grigsby said. “The most fulfilling aspect is when residents come up to me and say, ‘We really appreciate what you do. We really appreciate you, John Paul.’ When the residents are happy, I’m happy.’’
When Grigsby was growing up, he thought he wanted to become a doctor. Academically, though, that was going to be a challenge. Instead, he found something else.
And could not be more pleased with the result.
“When I got to Beacon, I knew I wanted to help people,’’ Grigsby said. “I just didn’t know in what way. Beacon showed me that way. I’m eternally grateful for that.’’