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Student Innovator and Positive Thinker

At the University of Advancing Technology (UAT), we have both online and on campus students from across the country, all looking to use their skills to innovate for their passions. These innovations can assist with challenges that personally impact students and their families, and they are excited to be part of creating the solutions. One such student is Justice McNeeley. We talked with Justice to find out more about his current life and plans for the future. 

Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from?

My name is Justice McNeeley, I'm 22 years old and live in Pine, Arizona. At 14 months old I was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease called spinal muscular atrophy type 2, or SMA2 for short. Everyone's body creates two types of muscular protein called RNM 1 and 2, and my body only creates one of these which leads to deteriorating muscle growth over time.

What are your interests?

Some of the interests that I love to do are hunting, fishing, working with horses, videogames, RC racing, and 3D printing. When I was little, I never thought much about my disease, but as I became older, I noticed that my disease was progressing and started to change physically. Once this happened, I started to notice that it was a lot more difficult to do stuff that I used to do daily, such as camping, trail riding, and keeping friends, because I wasn't able to go and do the stuff, they were able to do and various other things as well. But then I started meeting people that were in the same situation that I was that are doing things that you wouldn't even imagine could be possible and changed my mindset both physically and mentally.

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I have a friend named Dan, and he was in an accident which resulted in him becoming blind, but did this stop him? No, not even close. He's been on many hunts over the years and has harvested some amazing animals as well as started a non-profit disability hunting organization called "No Excuse Hunting" to show people that no matter what situation you’re in that there are people out there that want to help people do what they think is impossible.

Another friend of mine named Ryan has the same type of disease that I do (SMA), and he figured out how to build a shooting system for his wheelchair that runs an actuator with a push of a button to help him pull the trigger. He has also taken a pontoon boat and made it wheelchair accessible so he can go fishing whenever he likes.

Once I started meeting All of these amazing people, I started to realize that I can enjoy life to the fullest, although I have to do it a little bit differently. I would say I have proven that over the years, from hunting by the north rim of the Grand Canyon (kabab) to deep-sea fishing in Mexico to flying to Hawaii. If you never give in, anything is possible. Now were all these easy by any means? No, not even close, but by having my friends and family and the man upstairs to help me push forward, I was and still am able to overcome many of these challenges to make it a reality.

When did you start at UAT and what are you studying?

I started UAT back in September of 2021. I am currently working toward a Digital Maker & Fabrication Bachelor of Science degree.

Why did you choose UAT?

The reason I chose UAT is that they offer a degree that helps me with what I plan to do in the future.

What are you enthusiastic about? 

I am very enthusiastic about being myself and never changing who I am, while using my creativity to always put a smile on somebody's face.

What are you hoping for your career path after graduation?

To be honest, I'm not 100% on what my plans are after college, but I hope to do something to help people with disabilities, such as making adaptive equipment or 3D printing homes.

What’s the best advice you received to help with your education thus far?

Think simple, that's when you can accomplish any task at hand.

Anything else you’d like to add?

No matter how hard a challenge/obstacle is that presents itself physically, having the motivation and your loved ones close, you can accomplish anything. Because if I can do it, surely you can too!!

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