Jacques LaCour

Everyday Superhero

The story of a superhero is usually comprised of a few common elements: tragedy, confronting weakness or fears, acclimation to the superpower and battling against negative forces for the sake of humankind. They instill hope, and a sense of security and protection in a time of instability. Jacques LaCour, who recently earned his master's degree in Cyber Defense from Dakota State University, has a story that personifies the elements of an everyday superhero.

Jacques, who grew up in the Chicago area, always had a love for computers and technology. While in High School, he was able to participate in a technology course that focused on, "Technical Threat Exercises." Through this program he met and received mentorship from the programs' Technical Director, Diane Rocket. This training enabled him to build a working knowledge of computer applications and processes related to cybersecurity.

Upon graduation from High School, Jacques went on to complete a BA degree in Business Management in 2009. Upon graduation, Jacques held different jobs in the Human Resources, IT and marketing fields. He married his wife in 2014 and in 2017 they were expecting their first child. Everything in Jacque's life seemed to be going well and as planned.

But it was in 2017 when tragedy and adversity struck Jacques and his family. Jacques was working as a Domestics Logistics Coordinator when he began to lose his vision. He was eventually diagnosed with Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. Jacques was put on leave and eventually let go. Faced now with the loss of his vision and his job, Jacques could only hope that the support from his wife's work would carry them over until new employment or benefits could be secured.

But adversity didn't stop there. To make matters worse, his wife found out that based on her due date, she was not going to be eligible for paid maternity leave, causing the family to not have any income for some time during her recovery and would reduce the bonding time with their son. The challenges that Jacques and his wife were suddenly facing seemed almost too much. But that's when things began to turn around.

Jacques' mentor and friend, Technical Director, Diane Rocket, became aware of the barriers and hardships that Jacques and his wife were going through and decided that she would try to do what she could to help. Along with her husband Denny, the couple organized a fundraiser for Jacques and his wife that helped offset some of the medical and living costs they were incurring.

Knowing that Jacques was a fan of Marvel Comics and Superheroes, Diane also decided to present Jacques with a gift- a life size cardboard display of Matt Murdoch, better known in the Marvel Comic Book World as the Superhero, Daredevil. Daredevil, who is also blind, just happened to be one of Jacques' favorite Superheroes.

Says Jacques, "Daredevil (a.k.a. Matt), is a successful lawyer by day and has several superpowers stemming from an auto accident spilling a radioactive isotope that made him blind. The accident heightened his other senses to a superhuman level, including hearing, touch, smell, and taste. He also has enhanced stamina, agility, reflexes, balance, and endurance and uses these as a street-level vigilante at night, doing his best to clean the streets of any crime he can."

It was in 2017 that Jacques also discovered the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation (IDHS-DRS). Jacques was referred to the Bureau of Customer & Community Blind Services (BCCBS) for assistance with adjustment to his vision loss and for seeking a career in Information Technology.

Much like a superhero, Jacques received a variety of supports and technology that equipped him with the power to navigate his world with confidence, while adjusting to the vision loss. Supports included skills for activities of daily living (ADL's) that enabled him to be able to take care of himself and his family, Orientation & Mobility training, including the proper use of a white cane, and how to use public transportation. In addition, Jacques was also taught a certain degree of braille as deemed necessary for his functionality in the new world he now lived in.

As Jacques became more empowered, he began to think about what his future career may hold. Through supportive Counseling and Guidance, Jacques and his DRS counselor identified a career path that focused on his interests in computer technology and the sciences.

College training equipped Jacques with the power of technology. To ensure equity with access to the materials, Jacques was provided headphones, a laptop computer, and a variety of assistive technology software, including Job Access With Speech, or JAWS, which enables text to be read to users; Zoom Text, which is a screen magnifier that enlarges text on a computer screen; and Fusion, which enables screen magnification and visual enhancements for screen viewing ease as well.

In addition to the laptop and software, Jacques was given a voice recorder for use primarily in classes at that time and received significant training on how to navigate his Operating System using mostly keyboard commands.

The combination of career and technological supports provided by DRS helped to ensure Jacques' successful completion of an Associate Degree in Cyber Defense at the College of DuPage, and subsequent achievement of a master's degree in Cyber Defense from Dakota State University in May of 2022.

Jacques recently reached back out to his Rehabilitation Counselor with the following note:

"On May 6, 2022, myself, my wife, my now four-year-old son, my brother, parents, and mother-in-law flew up to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and on May 7, I graduated from Dakota State University with my master's degree in Cyber Defense with a GPA of 4.0. This final semester was possibly the hardest as it was completed while employed full-time as a Cybersecurity Incident Responder at United Airlines at which I am loving my career and the team I work with."

"To top it all off, I was able to come home to our very own home which we purchased at the end of March. All of this would not have been possible without the team effort, assistance, and encouragement of the team there at DRS / BCCBS. A thousand "thank you's" for helping me find a future I love."

Superheroes are around us every day. They inspire us with their strength, their perseverance, and their drive to protect and fight for others, while continuing to fight their own battles as well. Jacques LaCour has been an inspiration of superhero-like levels for many, including Diane and Denny Rocket.

Sadly, Diane has since passed away due to medical complications. In her memory, Jacques continues to contribute the remaining funds from his original fundraiser to assist others in need, paying it forward the best he can.

Just what you would expect from an everyday superhero!