Every college student’s journey is different. For 35-year-old Charles Vaughn, the path to getting a degree is 14 years in the making.
When Vaughn was 5 years old he was diagnosed with autism. He started out at community college, working and going to school part-time. Monday, the 35-year-old Wallingford man received a degree in general studies from Southern Connecticut State University.
“I know I had to do this. I know I had to keep going,” said Vaughn.
“He was undeterred,” explained his mother Laurajean Vaugh. “Really, really focused on doing his work. We never had to encourage him to study.”
Vaughn’s parents said he never gave up, even when he struggled and had to retake classes.
“The true test of success and character of an individual is persistence,” Dr. Bob Prezant, SCSU provost said during the graduation ceremony.
When the moment came to get his diploma, Vaugh took a deep breath, and cracked an even bigger smile.
“You wanted to learn about the world around you and you opened yourself up to some new experiences,” said SCSU President Dr. Joe Bertolino.
Vaughn said he didn’t know exactly what he’ll do with his degree, but he knows his future is bright.
“Probably work on computers. I’m not going to like, I’m not going to make coffee,” he said.
His parents hope they’ve paved a path for other parents of autistic children who want to pursue higher education and for the teachers helping make those dreams come true.
“When they listen to us they get past what they see and understand there’s a person in there who’s intelligent,” said his father Robert Vaughn.
Vaughn’s two brothers are also on the autism spectrum and are pursuing master's degrees, but he said he wants to take a break from his studies and work.