Kim Phillips gets a little emotional when she talks about her sons.
Perfectly understandable, because at the time it’s a few days before Mother’s Day and just a week before her oldest son completes his studies at MCC-Blue River.
Zach, 21, is the son about to graduate. “He worked hard,” his mom says. “He strived for excellence. He wanted A’s on everything. Of course, a couple of classes, he didn’t get A’s, he got really high Bs, but we were ecstatic.”
Kim and her husband, Byron, of Blue Springs, are now encouraging their 17-year-old son, Shaun, to follow his brother’s education route.
Sounds like a familiar graduation story, right? Not quite. Zach uses a wheelchair and has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a degenerative muscle disease for which there is no cure.
“Awesome” is how Kim describes Zach’s experience at Blue River.
“They treated him like his wheelchair wasn’t even there,” Kim says.
She was by his side daily in class, helping him take notes.
“The child is so intelligent,” Kim says. “For him to remember as much as he remembers, I was flabbergasted. I love Blue River, and I am going to miss it so much.”
The son-and-mom team made an impression on campus leaders.
Zach, who was honored at the Blue River awards banquet April 22, was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and the Student Activities Council and took part in the Fall Fun Festival parade in Blue Springs last fall. And he has a high GPA.
Zach also “overcome great shyness while at Blue River,” says Amy Slater, Blue River’s Campus Life & Leadership coordinator. “He’s an amazing young man.”
Zach says representing Blue River in the parade was one of his most memorable moments at MCC. Slater, Zach and other students joined MCC-Blue River President Dr. Michael Banks along the parade route in September in a show of Trailblazer pride.
“I put so much work into such an important accomplishment in my life” — graduating from college — “which I could not have done without the help and support from God, my family and my friends,” Zach says.
He came to MCC on an A+ scholarship and is graduating with an associate in arts degree. Kim says instructors made such a difference for Zach, including English instructor David Collins, speech and drama instructor Dee Mathison and Dawnita Thompson in the Writing Lab.
What’s next for Zach? The Phillipses are having a busy year. Zach is graduating, dad Byron turns 50 and Byron and Kim celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. They are simply going to enjoy every moment of it.