By Richard Burnett
Six months after he capped off his Beacon College career with graduation in 2019, Thomas Minor III stepped into his first real world job, sorting, packing and doing other entry-level work for an e-commerce shipping firm.
Now, nearly three years later, he has transformed the ground-floor position into a logistics problem-solving resource for the South Florida warehouse of Shipmonk, a fast-growing global company based in Fort Lauderdale.
Minor, 26, has built an expanding role for himself in a relatively short time, from solving global shipping problems and creating digital databases to coordinating staff CPR classes. He takes every challenge in stride, always looking to meet the next need and help others who have faced the obstacles he has.
“I want to learn everything I can about the shipping industry,” said Minor, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of five. “But I also want to be an advocate for others with disabilities and help them find jobs too. I know a lot of people are willing and able to do the job, if they are only given a chance.”
“We almost lost him”
For Minor’s family, his work success so far is the latest example of his ability to overcome adversity, beat the odds, and find his place in the world. Adversity began early for Minor, who was born premature and beset with significant health problems, according to his parents Thomas and Susan Minor of Coral Springs, Florida.
“We almost lost him three times,” said Thomas Jr., a retired school teacher. “Those were some scary times for us.”
Still, Minor survived and persevered, even as he encountered developmental delays that triggered reading comprehension issues and other learning disabilities. His educational journey was uneven — some teachers understood his problems, others didn’t. Somehow, however, with the help of the good teachers, counselors, and his parents’ support, he graduated high school, with B’s and C’s in most courses.
“After that experience from pre-K to grade 12, we decided we would do whatever it took to find the right school for him to flourish,” said Susan Minor, a technology consultant for IBM. “Thomas is our only child. And when he came into the world, we knew we would dedicate our lives to him.”
Then there was Beacon
More than a decade ago, Minor’s father attended a conference at Lynn University in Boca Raton on teaching students with autism. He came home with a book as big as a dictionary, showing the universities that had programs for students with learning disabilities. He gave the tome to Minor, then 14 years old, not expecting a prompt reaction.
The next day, Minor announced to his parents he’d found the school for him.
“I went all through that book and found Beacon and saw all the accommodations they had for kids with learning disabilities,” Minor recalled. “I told them I think I that’s the college I want to go to. Let’s visit it!! I think they were really impressed I responded like that.”
Shocked, more than impressed, Susan Minor said. They had already set up a Florida Pre-Paid College Program for their son to attend a state college. However, the more their son explained the advantages Beacon offered and his enthusiasm for it, they saw a look of hope in his eyes they had never seen before.
“We went back to the drawing board and figured out how we would make it happen for him,” she said.
One who really cares about others
By all accounts, the Beacon experience transformed Minor in all ways. His self-confidence grew, his grades improved, his social skills matured and he developed a stronger sense of independence. He earned his B.A. degree in human services in May 2019.
Dr. Andrea Brode, Beacon’s coordinator of international programs, recalled Minor’s zest for knowledge and travel during the college’s 2019 Beacon in Tuscany semester in Italy. It was during this trip that the group began to call Minor by his nickname “T3.”
“T3 is one of those good guys who was always protective and very generous with his time, looking out for others,” she said. “He’s just totally reliable and responsible, a real good person who cares about others. He’s like many of our students who are also that way. That’s why they make wonderful employees and workers. They come in and do what’s expected of them. And they’re delighted to be part of a team.”
Said Dr. Nicoletta “Nicki” Nance, associate professor of human services and psychology: “He was always fully engaged in class and on field trips. He was so focused on his career goal, while also being very kind, helpful and fun.”
Overall, Beacon helped Minor find himself, his father said: “It helped him find his own gifts. And that is so powerful. I do believe that is the greatest blessing. Each child is different, each has his or her own struggles along the way. But if an institution can illuminate your gifts and send you forth into the world with knowledge, that’s the greatest gift.”
On how he has overcome so much to reach this point in his life, Minor put it simply: “I really think you have to take life day by day, each challenge as it comes, learn all you can along the way and use that to help others.”