Hero Next Door: Alyssa Sharp

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A woman was inspired by her own struggles, to help college students who have intellectual disabilities.

"These students are like a second family to me," Alyssa Sharp the Higher Education Opportunities Act Consortium Consultant at UNF.

Sharp works with "The Arc Jacksonville on Campus Transition at UNF." The program's mission is to provide an innovative college experience for students with intellectual disabilities.

"I myself have a disability and I know what I'm capable of, and I just want these students to have the same possibilities and potential that I could have. Although mine is a physical disability there is no difference," said Sharp.

When Alyssa was going into her senior year of high school the track star began to have back problems.

"I was diagnosed with Sherman Kyphosis in 2010," Sharp said.

She would undergo spinal surgery.

"It was really scary," said Sharp. "I didn't know what to do and I kind of lost a lot of hope and it was my senior year of high school and I almost didn't graduate because I was in the hospital for three months."

But that was only the first leg of her journey. The problems came back and Sharp would undergo five more surgeries before doctors were able to figure out what was causing the back problems.

"I was allergic to the metal that was impacted in my body," Sharp said.

After each surgery - she'd have to learn to walk.

Sharp says, "It's been a long road."

Sharp says having made it through her tough journey and having a brother who's autistic is what inspired her to help the students at UNF with intellectual disabilities.

"They are capable and their drive to do great things is what's going to take the far," Sharp says. "This program really prepares them for the work force and that's a big deal in today's world, because if these students live off social security that's not going to get them very far."

Alyssa Sharp is Our Hero Next Door.

"I don't do the things I do because I'm looking for recognition. I just do them because it's what I love and it brings joy to my heart to see that someone sees what I'm doing is so great. It's a heck of an honor."

In addition to the work that she does here at UNF, Sharp also started her own non-profit organization called, Alyssa Cares through bears. It is where she delivers bears to children in hospitals. If you'd like to donate just go to her website.


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