“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is the saying that I have always felt applied to me. At first glance, one may see a disabled person in a wheelchair; but, what the wheelchair doesn’t tell you is that I have a wicked sense of humor, that I am affectionate and smart. Experiencing 17 years of long stares and double-glances, I know by the way people look at me that they perceive me as “special,” judging long before they know me. But the truth of the matter is that I am like everyone else. I am just a normal teenager.
Defying the odds has been the theme of my life. Upon birth, the doctors diagnosed me with Cerebral Palsy. Under this diagnosis and complications coming into this world, they told
my mother that I probably would not live. My school years began with me being enrolled into
Special Education because the school thought that this was the best place for me, but I knew it
wasn’t. The school saw a person who was confined to a wheelchair and could barely form full
sentences, but mentally I was capable. I took a series of tests to prove them wrong and to their
surprise, I passed.
Physically, having Cerebral Palsy means being carried from my bed onto my wheelchair
every morning. While I attend class and complete homework assignments every night, just as
any other student would do, what differentiates me from my classmates is the fact that I have to
work twice as hard as the “normal” person – including putting on a shirt, feeding myself or even
typing a paper for class. But, despite the opportunities available to someone with my physical
limitations, I always knew that I was meant for something more: a college education.
The moment that I knew that college was for me was when I completed the Chicano
Studies course through California State University Long Beach. Receiving an A in class and
being admired by your professor and peers was the best feeling. Now considering myself
college-bound, I did everything I could to prepare me for the next step. During my Junior year, I
completed my first Advanced Placement course, US History, and became involved in college
programs like AVID, College Blueprint and Be A Leader. I sacrificed my summer to take
summer courses like Economics and Government to boost my GPA and to get into the mindset
of preparing for college. I’m proud to say that I succeeded in everything that year. I received an
A in AVID, was rewarded by getting my certificate of completion for being in College Blueprint
and Be A Leader.If there is one thing I learned about myself through this whole process is that,
despite my disability and difficulty in doing things the normal way, it has given me character. I
developed an attitude that I can do anything despite my challenges.
Fast forward to three years later as I approach my senior year. I’ve continued my
success by maintaining a 3.9 GPA, completing AP classes and placing on the Principal’s Honor
Roll for the last three years. I am now ranked 26th amongst 577 seniors and there is no
stopping me. According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of disability is “the
condition of being unable to to do things the normal way.” I may not do things the normal way,
but I have found my way. I have exceeded expectations, defied odds, and am determined to
graduate from college. Nothing can stop me.