Trent Ferguson (left) with Rich Carroll, news and sports director, at WNZF

Trent Ferguson (left) with Rich Carroll, news and sports director with radio station WNZF and co-host of Outta Sight Sports. Photo courtesy of WNZF.

AVON PARK, Fla. – April 25, 2022 – Trent Ferguson was born blind and was diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia. However, what may be deemed a disability for someone else fueled his desire for knowledge and launched his career in radio.

Ferguson will earn his Associate in Arts from South Florida State College (SFSC) during the College’s Commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 10 at the Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts on SFSC’s Highlands Campus in Avon Park. In fact, he will be the graduation speaker during the 4:30 p.m. ceremony.

Upon graduation from SFSC, Ferguson plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from the University of South Florida. Originally from Avon Park, Ferguson graduated in 2017 from the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB), a public school for pre-K and K-12 students in St. Augustine, Fla.

Ferguson currently works full-time and remotely from Highlands County as the assistant news director for Flagler Broadcasting, located in Bunnell, Fla. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he would like to continue working in the radio industry. “Radio’s my dream career and a good fit,” he said. Additionally, he plays the drums for his church’s praise band and with Highlands County’s own California Toe Jam Band.

Ferguson began working for Flagler Broadcasting as a daily sports anchor in 2019. While he continues to anchor the sports each weekday morning, he also serves as assistant news director and produces commercials.

Ferguson began his radio career during his junior year in high school. The general manager for Flagler Broadcasting had invited students from the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind to attend the ribbon cutting of a new building in St. Augustine. During the event, Ferguson chatted with folks from the radio station and they were impressed with his knowledge of radio. In January 2016, the general manager asked Ferguson to record commercials about the dangers of texting and driving. Because they were so well done, Ferguson was then asked to cohost with a popular morning DJ for one day in February 2016. Eventually, Ferguson was recording a sports podcast called “Outta Sight Sports.” “The name of the show was inspired by a band that I played in while at FSDB,” Ferguson said. “The high school band is called “Outta Sight.”

In January 2019, the podcast was turned into an on-air Saturday show on WNZF, broadcast out of Bunnell. That led Ferguson to a morning sports anchor job, and he has continued on a trajectory with Flagler Broadcasting.

Ferguson came to SFSC at the suggestion of his aunt, Janie Ferguson, who worked in the College’s Testing Center for many years. “After I graduated from high school, she said I would love SFSC – it gets you ready for the university,” he said. “She told me that I should take classes here and it has a great disabilities specialist – Charla Ellerker. Charla’s a godsend and amazing. She helps me with what I need to take classes and with accommodations. My first class was Oral Communications with the great Lynn MacNeill in June 2018.”

Ferguson doesn’t let anything stop him in his pursuit of his goals. “Being blind has been a blessing. Blindness is not a disability, but a way of life. My parents had the same expectations of me as they would for a sighted person—to be a successful person in society. And the school in St. Augustine had a huge impact on teaching me how to live on my own.”

Ferguson credits his grandparents for assisting him in his academic endeavors. “My grandfather, Dean Ferguson, drives me to campus nearly every time I have a face-to-face class meeting or I need to take care of other business,” he said. “And my other grandparents, Julie and T.J., help in this effort as well.”

Ferguson has had to overcome obstacles in his academic career, occasionally. “My screen reading software wouldn’t work with some textbooks. Instead of giving up, I have a human reader who’s assisted me. I’d like to give credit to him — Yoel Sanchez. Every time I’ve taken a course, he’s there to read my exams to me and read class assignments and assures me that they’re visually acceptable and meet the instructor’s requirements. He helps me to circumvent the technology barrier. My screen reader works 95% of the time, but technology sometimes doesn’t work.”

When asked how SFSC has helped him in his life, Ferguson said, “Big time. I credit my professors for being more than willing to grant me accommodations, such as giving me extended time on classwork. And Charla Ellerker helps me out. SFSC has given me the opportunity to learn new things. I’ve developed lifelong friendships with my instructors. It’s a relaxing place for me. I’ve had the honor of getting to know professors, and their willingness to accommodate me has been comforting.”