Casey Jo Higgins

MARIETTA, OHIO — There was a time in Casey Jo Higgins life that she believed any dreams of graduating from college would be laid to rest. Yet her reality shifted at the age of 27 when a double lung transplant gave her a new lease on life.

Higgins has cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and, over time, limits the ability to breathe. As a kid, she remained relatively healthy and was even able to participate in a few sports. However, true to the expectations of the disease, she began to see a significant decline in her health as she entered high school.

In spite of this, Higgins attempted to keep pace with her friends and enrolled at Washington State College of Ohio (WSCO) after high school graduation. Yet at the conclusion of her first semester, she realized her condition had deteriorated to the point that all of her energy needed to be redirected to her health. Eventually, her situation became dire. She needed a double lung transplant to survive.

Being able to receive this lifesaving transplant in 2015 opened a new world of possibilities for Higgins. As her body healed from surgery and her health improved, her perspective shifted. She felt confident in the prospects of her future and began establishing long-term goals.

Two years after her transplant, Higgins re-enrolled at WSCO in Business Management Technology to learn skills necessary to help her dad launch an antique car dealership. Once in the classroom, she began to capitalize on her renewed sense of self, which garnered the attention of students and professors alike. In fact, Business Management Professor Brad Merritt took note of Higgins’ exceptional work and nominated her to represent the college as the August Student of the Month.

“What really impresses me about Casey Jo is that she strives for perfection. She strives to be the best,” described Merritt. “She sits up front in every class, asks questions, and takes meticulous notes. Moreover, she is able to ask analytical questions when discussing complex subjects like microeconomics.”

Beyond the classroom, Higgins is equally passionate about being involved in her community. She is a member and Vice President of Communications for Phi Theta Kappa, the official honor society of community colleges.

Merritt, who serves as the PTK advisor, said Higgins displays strong service and leadership skills, “Regardless of the task at hand, Casey takes a leadership position and is a great organizer.” Higgins has been involved in a pancake breakfast to help the Wounded Warriors Project, the Empty Bowls fundraiser for local food pantries, and a collection drive, which Higgins led, to support the local women’s shelter EVE.

At the conclusion of this semester, Higgins will graduate with an Associate of Applied Business Degree in Business Management Technology.