Blind TTU student appointed to Governor's council, interns with Sen. Burks

“It’s all about giving back to the system that provides for me everyday.”

That’s how legally blind, non-traditional student Melissa Aldridge of Monterey describes her education at Tennessee Tech University, her current legislative internship with Sen. Charlotte Burks and an appointment to the Governor’s Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Council that begins in June.

She began her internship with Burks in January, and it was the senator who recommended that she be appointed to the governor’s council at the end of that internship.

The purpose of the council is to provide expertise to help the state traumatic brain injury coordinator in providing information, services and training to TBI clients and those who work with them.

A junior secondary education major at TTU, Aldridge has an associate’s degree in nursing and was working in home health in 1994, when she sustained head injuries in an automobile accident that left her vision permanently impaired.

She decided after the accident to pursue a bachelor’s degree — “in order to become a productive citizen again,” she said — and plans to be certified to teach history and political science.

“What better way to take first-hand knowledge back to the classroom than to do what I’m doing now and be a part of it?” she said. “I can’t begin to describe the professional benefits I’m getting from all of this.”

Aldridge credits her positive experience at TTU, in part, to the state Vocational Rehabilitation Program, TTU’s Disability Services, College of Education and instructors willing to provide individual guidance.

Her husband, Gilbert, also attends the university as a secondary education music major.

The couple has an adult son, Ryan; a daughter and son-in-law, Susan and Ernest; and two grandchildren, Amelia and Zachary.