Visually impaired student enjoying the ride at KSU
KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov 25, 2020) — Kennesaw State University student Lucas Rice dropped by the Outdoor Adventures office on campus one day to inquire about working there, and he wound up with much more than just his current job. Rice, who was born blind, became part of a community that has made his time at KSU unforgettable.
Rice said he loves his job, which primarily involves helping to promote the recreational and educational programs that Outdoor Adventures offers to the KSU community. Better yet, he has developed several friendships and frequently takes tandem bicycle rides with a fellow student or with Ed Baltes, the assistant director of Outdoor Adventures.
“At Outdoor Adventures, I’m part of the group,” said Rice, a senior from Perry, Ga., majoring in media and entertainment. “It’s like a home away from home. It’s family.”
Rice enjoys an active lifestyle – which includes going on hikes and being a blue belt in jujitsu – so he naturally was drawn to Outdoor Adventures. In turn, the opportunity to connect with Rice resonated with Baltes, who is actively involved in KSU’s Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth.
“Lucas is definitely somebody that my heart reached out for,” Baltes said. “Lucas is so excited to get into these things. All we need to do is figure out a way, and I know he’s always in.”
Baltes gave Rice a marketing role that was a good fit for his outgoing personality and his aspiration to pursue a career in a communications field. Rice often can be found manning an information tent on campus, telling students about the different activities they can enjoy through Outdoor Adventures.
Rice is just as likely to be riding around campus and local bike trails on a bright yellow tandem bicycle, typically with Baltes as the pilot rider. The two have developed a close bond, and Baltes choked up as he talked about Rice's exemplifying the inclusive environment that Kennesaw State strives to provide for its students.
“Lucas’s experience is the road map, I think, for others to follow,” Baltes said. “He is one of those guys that people gravitate toward. Having Lucas on our team has been very valuable in giving other students some perspective and getting people to think about not just their lives, but the lives of others around them.”
Rice said that he enjoys getting exercise and being out in the fresh air during his bike rides with his friends. More than anything, though, he values the camaraderie.
“I’ve never had an issue with inclusion. The way I look at it is, you have to include yourself,” he said. “If people do find me inspirational, that’s great. For me, life is just life, and you just have to live to the best of your abilities.”
The tandem bicycle Rice rides is a 1970s model Schwinn Deluxe Twinn that once had been the very first rental bike that Kennesaw State students could check out, but had been retired after many years of use. The bicycle was serving simply as a display piece, hanging in the Outdoor Adventures bike shop, but then was given new life.
“Once Lucas came into the picture, I took the bike off the wall and fixed it up, and we’ve been riding it ever since,” Baltes said. “That enabled us to get Lucas out on rides, and other students have joined in to be the pilot rider.”
Along with teaming up on their frequent bike rides, Rice and Baltes also gave a presentation together at a Georgia Recreational Sports Association conference that KSU hosted last year. In a roundtable discussion, they shared what Baltes described as “our calling to create inclusive environments for everyone.”
Everything Rice has enjoyed at KSU – the friendships, the many bike rides, his job with Outdoor Adventures and his classes toward his degree in the School of Communication and Media – assure him that he made the right decision by transferring to Kennesaw State prior to his junior year.
“I’m thankful I’ve had this experience of being part of Kennesaw State,” Rice said. “I’ve met great people and experienced lots of different things, so I wouldn’t change anything.”
– Paul Floeckher
Photos by David Caselli
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.