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Alum Steve Adams with spider tattoo on arm

Steven Adams is a Beacon College super fan.

Adams, 44, of Casper, Wyoming, is the proud holder of two Beacon bachelor’s degrees, yet he wanted to do more for the place where he had evolved from a loner to a student leader in the spotlight.

Beacon provided such a valuable education, Adams thought, “Why not give back?” he said. “What a way to end a college career by having your name permanently at that college? I wanted to be the first to make an [financial] impact as a student for Beacon College, so I donated $10,000.”

Go inside the Student Center where the student government meets. You will spot a copy of the student body constitution, which Adams helped draw up, framed and hanging on the wall, dedicated to him.

Adams looks back fondly at Beacon for not only giving him life skills and academics but also helping him reestablish his self-identity.

“It opened a lot of closed doors,” Adams said. “I don’t have to be the one who’s standing in the shadows and standing in the dark. I can be who I am and show the real me.”

Today, Adams is celebrating his sixth anniversary as an educational support specialist working with middle school students who have behavioral issues.

Adams doesn’t look like your typical school staffer.

His arms are covered in tattoos — a large spider, a king cobra and more.

The ink gets the attention of middle schoolers. They ask questions. His body art is the distraction they need, especially when they’re having a dreadful day at school. For a moment, they forget about their problems. They want to listen.

“My tattoos represent me. They tell my life story of what I’ve been through. Every tattoo on my arm has a meaning,” Adams tells the students.

One of his tattoos is a tiger — a creature who roams on his own.

Adams relates to the solitary animal.

As he talks about his life, Adams points to the date when everything changed: Oct. 28, 1985.

When he was a first-grader playing at recess, he got pushed off a 12-foot slide at the playground and hit the asphalt. Adams spent the rest of his childhood going through rehabilitation because of his traumatic brain injury.

“It’s like starting your life over at age five,” Adams said. “I had to relearn to walk, talk, learn, read.”

He was placed in a special education classroom for the duration of his education until his senior year of high school when he enrolled in freshman English. He proved to everyone he could do the work; he just learned at a different pace.

Through it all, Adams said he missed out on school activities and felt isolated.

“I always was held back. I always was pushed into the corner, pushed off stage,” Adams said. “I was really discriminated against for my disability.”

How a Wyoming kid ended up in Leesburg, Florida, on the other side of the country was a bit of luck and fate.

Adams’ parents stumbled upon an advertisement for Beacon College in a magazine in the children’s hospital’s waiting room. A college for people with learning disabilities? Adams’ father thought it was a joke.

Everything became more real when Adams toured the school. He enrolled.

The kid who felt invisible growing up won co-student body president his freshman year.

Adams had arrived in Leesburg when the college was just starting out. The full campus you see today didn’t exist. The student body was tiny. That meant Adams had the power to make a difference and shape the school’s foundation.

Adams helped draft the official student body constitution that set the student government rules and is still in place now. He got involved in the college’s efforts to get accredited and shared his school experience with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Adams also led the school’s Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society chapter and met then-Gov. Charlie Crist during a school dinner.

“Once he got into the college, he totally embraced it. He took advantage of everything that he could,” said Dr. James Fleming, the Beacon faculty member who chairs the business and technology department. Fleming taught Adams and still keeps in touch with him.

Adams earned two degrees at Beacon — his bachelor’s in liberal arts with a minor in education in 2003 and a bachelor’s in computer information systems with a minor in business management in 2008.

As an alumnus, it is meaningful to know a piece of him adorns the student government room, a place where he had spent many hours when he attended Beacon.

Adams’ donation shows his dedication to Beacon, Fleming said.

“It’s him showing his love for the college,” Fleming said.