By Pamela Martineau
Growing up in Minnesota, Alexander Paradis, SCCO, ’19, is grateful that his best friend was his older brother. It’s not just that liking your brother enough to call him your best friend is cool, it’s also that Paradis’s brother has autism and his neuroatypical perspective taught Paradis so much.
“My brother is my drive in life and in school,” says Paradis. “He has changed who I am for the better. He has made me realize to accept everyone for who they are. Really step back and try to view others’ lives from their point of view.”
Living with his brother taught Paradis to watch for other people’s perspectives, something he says makes him less judgmental and more compassionate.
Paradis’s path to SCCO was a bit circuitous. Originally, he wanted to be a police
officer and first majored in criminal justice at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
“I wanted to be a cop for my entire life,” says Paradis.
But after he learned more about the profession and the impact it has on a police
officer’s family, he decided to go a new route and think about another career. A friend
introduced him to the field of optometry and he was able to travel with a group of
optometrists to Ghana for a 40-day internship.
“I truly found my passion in optometry,” Paradis says of his trip. “Seeing the impact
on people’s lives. I fell in love with the profession.”
Paradis especially remembers a teenage boy in Ghana who had waited more than
five hours to see an optometrist. His vision was quite bad and when he was outfitted
with glasses, it was transformative.
“His instantaneous smile was amazing,” Paradis remembers. The image of that boy
stays with Paradis and reminds him of the passion he feels for the profession.
Paradis relied on his grit to make it through college. He played lacrosse and traveled
frequently, studying on the bus. He seriously injured his knee his senior year, but
returned to play lacrosse his “super senior” year. He also held down a job to pay his
bills. He graduated cum laude and was President of the Pre-Optometry Club.
He originally planned to study at Salus University in Pennsylvania, even enrolling there. “But for some reason,” he explains, he decided to interview with SCCO. He got a great feeling for the school.
But he says his first couple of years at Ketchum University were tough. His family back in Minnesota was going through a rough time with his dad’s alcoholism.
“It was so hard to be away from home,” he says. “I wanted to help out with the family.”
His dad sought help and got better.
“Now my dad is back on track and healthy,” he says.
Paradis adds that his experiences with his brother and his father will make him a better optometrist.
“You’re not judging. You are listening. Maybe you can provide a little input along the way,” he says.
Paradis has continued his volunteer work at MBKU. He is Co-President of the Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity – SVOSH – and has traveled to Mexico on numerous service trips.
A big outdoorsman, Paradis enjoys camping, fishing, hiking and kayaking during his down time. He also plays in two different soccer leagues and enjoys a good game of pick-up basketball.
When he graduates, he hopes to return to Minnesota to work in a private practice group, as well as continue to serve people through his work.
“I have a huge heart and love to help others,” he says.