Shelley Reeder

Degree: Bachelor’s in Special Education

College/School: College of Arts, Sciences & Education; School of Education

Shelley Reeder defied the odds.

Diagnosed with hydrocephalus at just 5 months of age, doctors said she would never walk, or talk, much less attend school.

Characterized by an excessive amount of fluid in the head, which can place harmful pressure on the brain, Shelley and the more than 1 million others in the United States who suffer from hydrocephalus often have painful headaches, nausea, poor balance and lethargy.

To alleviate the symptoms of the condition, Shelley underwent surgery at just 8 months of age and would undergo at least 10 more procedures by the time she turned 24.

The path for Shelley has never been easy, but with the help of her family and loved ones, she learned to walk and talk and was able to attend school and excel academically. Not only is Shelley earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education, she is graduating magna cum laude.

Shelley says she chose a career in special education because every child should have the same opportunities she had to pursue an education. Shelley doesn’t want to see children with special needs fall through the cracks, and, she says, educators should do everything they can to ensure all of their students learn.

After graduation, Shelley plans on teaching children in special education classes while pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees in order to influence education policy and to advocate for students with special needs.

Shelley’s mentors at FIU are professors Patricia Barbetta, Judy Cohen, Melanie Morales and Ron Miles, and Stephanie Bello and Stephen Loynaz of the Disability Resource Center.