By Emily Williams
Asked for their recipe for success, top students more than likely would include studying and managing time wisely, and it’s no different for upcoming Samford University graduate Pete Petro.
“You can’t make excuses or compensate for any ability that you lack,” said Petro, who was diagnosed at 5 years old with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. “That and you have to study.”
Petro is graduating at the top of his class at the Brock School of Business with a bachelor’s in accounting and a minor in German despite his disease, which is marked by progressive muscle degeneration and has no known cure.
He said one of the things he has enjoyed most about his undergraduate career is the studying itself.
“I’ve enjoyed the learning,” he said. “I’ve taken a lot of classes on interesting things … that and interacting with people and getting to talk to professors and discuss things with them.”
Through the Brock School of Business’ internship program, he was able to take his education outside of the classroom as an intern in accounting.
Petro took an internship with Alabama Family Trust, a Vestavia Hills-based organization that provides special needs trusts to individuals with mental or physical disabilities.
“I think the best thing about working there was the people,” he said. During his internship, he put the skills he learned in the classroom into practice in the tax department.
Beyond skills, Petro left the internship with a desk that will carry him through his career.
Though his doctors initially assumed he would be using a wheelchair full time by junior high school, he managed to avoid it all the way until his freshman year of college.
To provide the perfect place for him to work, the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services built a desk to suit his needs as he worked at AFT. According to trust officials, the desk is now a prototype for other companies to use across the state.
“I’m letting them store it for now,” he said. “But later I can take it with me to the firm I work for and bring it with me if I move to new workplaces.”
After he graduates this month, Petro is staying at Samford to obtain a master’s in accounting and complete his CPA certification. Though he isn’t changing schools, he said he’s excited to leave the undergrad classes.
“I’m not going to have that stress of wondering what you’re going to do next or what classes you’ll be taking,” he said. His master’s program will be a straight road to a career as an accountant.
Treating his physical limitations as more of a hurdle than a roadblock, Petro has set an example inside and outside for any child looking to excel.