YORK, Pa., Oct. 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- In July 2008, Nathan DeWalt's life was changed forever. He was earning his degree from Ashford University and getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan, when a taxicab ran a stop sign. DeWalt was thrown from his motorcycle and three weeks later, when he woke up from a medically induced coma, he was paralyzed from the waist down.
"I never cried or got depressed," DeWalt, 24, says. "There was never an issue with my injury. I asked the doctors what I needed to do to get out of bed and get back to life." Eighteen months after his injury, based on his past Navy experience, he got a call from the Warrior Games, a competition created in 2010 as an introduction to Paralympic sports for injured service members and veterans. "My eyes were opened to the adaptive sports world. I jumped in head first and my life has never been the same," he added.
After representing the Navy in his first Warrior Games, he had the inspiration to compete. DeWalt was then introduced to hand cycles by Ride 2 Recovery, a nonprofit organization that supports physical and psychological rehabilitation programs for injured veterans, featuring cycling as its core activity. From indoor spinning training at military installations to multiday, long-distance rides, Ride 2 Recovery helps injured veterans heal through the challenge of cycling long distances using hand cycles, recumbents, tandems and traditional road bikes.
"The Ride to Recovery training is very intense; we ride on average 400 to 500 miles per week...that's similar to riding from San Francisco to Los Angeles every week," he said. Then, about a year and a half ago and heavily into hand cycling, DeWalt started racing. "My desire to compete evolved into paratriathlons. I felt like there was more in life that I wanted."
The next step in that life is the Paratriathlon World Championships, slated for Oct. 20 in Auckland, New Zealand. DeWalt has made the USA national team and will be traveling with other athletes to compete in a challenging swim, bike and run competition.
DeWalt's training and competitions don't stop him from pursuing his other goal: Earning his college degree. Prior to his injury, he was already taking online classes at Ashford University pursuing a bachelor's degree in business entrepreneurship. "I took a year off after my injury to get back to where I wanted to be physically. Now, I have about a year and half left before graduation and plan on owning my own business or franchise in the future. This degree will give me the knowledge needed to make that next dream become reality," he said.
Ashford University's online classes provide DeWalt with the opportunity to focus on both his training and his studies simultaneously. He is often at competitions two weeks a month. "With my schedule being so packed, I don't have the option of going to classes on campus. When I first started online, I was a little nervous that there could be a lack of interaction compared to a traditional classroom setting. However, I ended up finding that not to be true and I've created a perfect schedule. I couldn't imagine going to a campus now because this program allows me to manage my time as I best see fit." DeWalt is able to train twice a day and still fit in coursework between sessions.
DeWalt's preference for online education matches a national trend. According to a recent national consumer poll by Penn Schoen Berland on behalf of Ashford University, more than 60 percent of adults between the ages of 35 and 48 say online degree programs provide a more realistic learning environment that mimics today's work culture than traditional campus programs.
The next few weeks and months will be action packed for DeWalt as he prepares for the World Championships and other competitions down the road. He also needs to focus on exams and papers and he's up to the challenge of balancing both. "The best thing I can say to someone about studying online is that it allows you to take advantage of the time you have."
About Ashford University
Ashford University is defining the modern college experience by combining the heritage of a traditional campus with the flexibility and effectiveness of online learning. The University provides a vibrant learning community where high-quality programs and leading-edge technology create a dynamic, immersive and stimulating learning experience. Ashford University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association (www.ncahlc.org). The University offers practical and progressive associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs online, as well as bachelor's degree programs at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. Ashford University – where heritage meets innovation. For more information, please visit www.ashford.edu or call Shari Rodriguez, associate vice president of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.
Contact: Shari Rodriguez, Associate Vice President of Public Relations
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SOURCE Ashford University