SALEM — It’s not uncommon for a computer nerd to want to pursue a career in technology. That’s where the biggest threats to national security, banking and personal accounts arise. It’s a fast moving, exciting line of work.
What makes Hunter Jozwiak’s professional choice unique is that he is blind.
Jozwiak understands the importance of this kind of work.
“Cybersecurity is huge,” the 19 year old from Glenwood said. “People don’t pay attention to it. If you don’t encrypt your secret files, it’s like leaving your house with the oven on. Your data will be stolen, or your house will burn down.”
Linda Lavender, a teacher for 20 years at the technology center, was worried about Jozwiak’s ability to perform in his field of study when he entered the network administration and cybersecurity program at the center two years ago. She had never taught a student who was blind, but she said he quickly realized he easily comprehended everything that was going on in class.
“Hunter is very gifted in his ability to retain information and follow along,” Lavender said. “He’s an absolute joy to teach.”
Once Lavender got to know how he learned, she realized he needed very little accommodation. She read captions under pictures to him, and his fellow students also jumped in to help by sharing information.
“He has taught us all that his disability is not a disability,” Lavender said. “You make do with what you have, and you succeed that way.”
Jozwiak took first place in the Virginia competition for networking concepts through the Future Business Leaders of America. He was scheduled to compete for the national title in Chicago this summer, too.
“You get a lot of opportunities,” Jozwiak said. “Some people pass them up. Some people take them. I have the motivation to take them.”
During the state competition in Reston, Lavender said Jozwiak took the test by having it read to him and the computer screen described. He then had to describe back what he wanted to have done to solve the problem.
“It was very impressive,” Lavender said. “He holds nothing back.”
Jozwiak won’t be done with his travels after his time in the Windy City. He heads to Dallas for the American Council for the Blind Conference in July.
“He’s very independent,” Jackie Hargett, his mother, said.”I have a heart attack each time he leaves. He travels better than I do.”
Jozwiak will study at George Mason University this fall. He’ll room with his friend, Eric Lee, from the technology center.
“It’s interesting to be with Hunter,” said Lee, a graduate of Ocean Lakes High School and the technology center. “I’ve seen him do things I didn’t think he could do. He has gardened with his mom and has gone bowling. I was intrigued by that as I tried to figure out how that even comes about.”
Hargett also added that Jozwiak was involved with the jazz, marching and concert bands at Salem High School, where he played tuba and guitar. The staff a Salem High School was fantastic when working with her son, she said.
“He’s very accomplished,” Hargett said. “He works so hard to get as far as he has. He doesn’t let anything get him down.”
James Jozwiak remembers the diagnosis when his son was born. There was disbelief, he said, but they had to accept it.
“Our goal was to find out how we could make his life better for him to help him,” said James Jozwiak, who now lives in Wisconsin. “It was a challenge and a struggle.”
He added that Hunter Jozwiak’s mother did a phenomenal job with their son.
Hunter Jozwiak, too, knows how to overcome challenges. He rides the public buses to get around town. He navigates the buildings at school with a fearless flow. He ties his own ties although he says he hates to do it.
He’s more a business casual kind of guy, but he has success in his sites.
“I like to see people succeed,” Jozwiak said. “I’m an outgoing person and would like to see more blind people go into technology, make it a passion, study, get certified, get a job, break down unemployment barriers, make a difference.”