"Nelson Beats The Odds"

Alumnus’s graphic novel seeks to inspire children with learning disabilities

Share this story

Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work alumnus has authored a graphic novel that he hopes will inspire children with learning disabilities and help destigmatize special education.

Ronnie Sidney II
Ronnie Sidney II

In “Nelson Beats The Odds,” Ronnie Sidney II tells the story of a boy named Nelson who is diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and placed in special education, but who overcomes his disability and eventually studies social work in college and graduates at the top of his class.

Sidney, who received a master's degree in social work from VCU in 2014, spent seven years in special education while growing up in Tappahannock, Virginia. “Nelson Beats The Odds,” he said, is written for children in a similar situation today.

“When I was in special education, there were no books, movies or cartoons with characters with learning disabilities or ADHD, so I felt alone,” he said. “I never talked to my friends, parents or teachers about it. I wanted to write a book that inspired kids diagnosed with disabilities and lets them know that they are not their disability.”

Sidney said that he particularly wants his story to reach African-American males.

“African-American males face so many obstacles in school which lead to poor outcomes,” he said. “I wanted to tell a story that would resonate with them. I wanted them to see someone that looks like them, who experienced what they experience and who proved everyone wrong.”

He added that the story might also encourage young African-Americans to pursue a career in social work.

“So many kids that I talk to want to go to the NFL or NBA and they don’t see anything else as a viable option,” he said. “I was intentional in stating that Nelson wants to become a social worker so that youth may become interested in the profession.”

I wanted them to see someone that looks like them, who experienced what they experience and who proved everyone wrong.

Sidney has worked for more than eight years in the mental health and academic counseling fields and currently works as an outpatient therapist at the Middle Peninsula-Northern Neck Community Services Board.

Sidney published the graphic novel through an online self-publishing service. Imagine That! Design provided the book’s illustrations, layout and design.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will go toward a scholarship fund for the children of two of Sidney’s classmates who died, as well as for a graduating senior of Essex High School who overcomes a challenge to attend a college or trade school.

“I wanted to award the additional scholarship because we put so much focus on grades and not the resilience that helped them finish school,” he said. “I remember graduating high school with a 1.8 GPA and the only scholarship I was eligible for was the one given to me by my church. I won’t have a GPA limit on mine because to me it’s all about a person’s will and determination to succeed.”

“Nelson Beats The Odds” is available at Velocity Comics at 819 W. Broad St. and online at http://www.creative-medicine.com/nelson-beats-the-odds.html.


Subscribe to the weekly VCU News email newsletter at http://newsletter.news.vcu.edu/ and receive a selection of stories, videos, photos, news clips and event listings in your inbox every Thursday.