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Aug 29 2016
by Jenna Ciccotelli

A 21-Year-Old With A Rare Disease Will Get To Experience College

By Jenna Ciccotelli - Aug 29 2016

Ben Sikorra of Los Angeles is not letting a rare neurological disease stop him from achieving his dreams -- the 21 year old will experience college at California Lutheran University this year.

Sikorra was diagnosed with juvenile Batten disease, which is a neurological degenerative disease that causes blindness, seizures, and loss of motor skills. Many people with the disease die before their mid 20s.

"Ben has the desire to do everything in a big way, and he lives very fully, so when he saw all his friends talking about going off to college and wanting to have that college experience, Ben said, 'well me too, why not,'" Ben's father, Joe, told NBC

The elder Sikorra and his wife wanted their son to experience college, but were hesitant because of his limitations. California Lutheran University stepped in to help create a program exclusively for Ben. "They were just like, let’s make it happen," said Joe.

Scott Silverman, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Life at the university,  conducted an admissions interview. "One of the things he said that really struck me as interesting and important, was how proud his brother would be of him to know that he’s in college," he said. Sikorra's older brother died from the disease last year.

Ben attended new student orientation and will sit in on a marine biology course, take a freshman seminar, and serve as the football team's hydration specialist. Sikorra's father told NBC that Ben has been "beside himself" since learning he was admitted to the university.

"It's really an honor to have Ben join the community here," Silverman said. "It really felt like the right thing to do."

Lead Image Credit: NBC Los Angeles

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