Brian Karacostas remembers the day he almost quit.

“I was about to email my professors and say, ‘I’m dropping out,’” said Karacostas. “I was about to hit ‘send’ and I couldn’t.

“I (used to) give up easily. I'm not the same Brian now.”

Born with spina bifida, Karacostas walks on crutches and lives at Independence Village. His dream: independence and a job in computer support.

Barbra Markey, on the Independence Village board of directors, encouraged him to enroll in college.

He enrolled in three information technology classes, which prepared him to take a Microsoft certification exam, often required by employers.

“As soon as class was done, we would sign up to take the certification exam, and that was our final (exam),” said Karacostas. “When I got my first certificate, staff at Independence Village was excited."

It became the first of four certifications: Networking Fundamentals, Certified Professional, Windows Server Administration Fundamentals and Windows Operating System Fundamentals.

However, he may be proudest of another certificate – the one proclaiming his acceptance into Phi Theta Kappa, the international community college honor society.

“The administrator here took a picture of me (when it came). I was ecstatic,” said Karacostas.

The COM Networking Program prepares students to work in a growing field and to pass Microsoft certifications, which employers commonly require.

“Networking is how computers talk to each other. (We learn) how computers talk to each other through the Internet and how to set up networks,” said Karacostas. “If I had to recommend a teacher of the year, that would be Chris (Walding). He’s very detailed if you have a question. My three-year-old niece could understand (his answer). I could call him any hour of the day.”’

Walding noticed his dedication.

“He was always making sure he knew what needed to be done, and he does it,” said Walding. “(Instructor) Marcus Pitre and I got him to help us set up parts of our labs.”

Besides joining an internship or co-op with COM next year to earn job experience, Karacostas also wants to be a role model.

“I was able to show people I did it,” said Karacostas. “If I can do it, you can do it.”