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Living Books

Outside the Box by Natalie Allen

Natalie Allen photoAutism is a part of who I am, defining how I view the world. It helps me think outside the box. The problem is other people want me in the box and I just can’t go in.  I can’t think inside the box, inside the “norm”, but I’ve gotten really good at pretending to know what’s inside the box, to seem more “normal”. Honestly, I don’t mind so much. Somedays for a second I wish it would go away but I would never wish it away forever.  I like being autistic, and I wouldn’t want a cure, even if one did exist. I like it when people know I’m autistic, that way I can break stereotypes simply by existing. I’m happy to talk about my autism, and answer any questions, I’m very comfortable with myself.

Live As If You Will Die Today by Cindy Brooks

Cindy Brooks photoAfter getting married to a musician and having a son, I never thought I would become a divorced, struggling single mother. I also never thought that my normal life would have me disabled and depressed until a young man at work dropped a stack of boxes on top of me while I was bent over. It took two years before I could stand on my own without the help of my son to hold me every step of the way. But I had to look beyond my disabilities, I had to believe that my life was not over and that someone could love or even want to be around a person like me. I had to come out of that darkness and find a new me again, one that would live every day as if it were my last.  My son helped me, not by telling me what I had accomplished in my past, but all the things I could become in my future, and of new beginnings. He said I should go to Community College and by taking this first step, and then another step after that, I attained new learning and skills.  Each would give me back self-worth and the ability to attain new goals. I want to become someone that others would be proud to be next to, and that I could inspire in their future path, no matter what their disability. So I can say this to them, ”LIVE”,   Live every day to the fullest, and fill your heart with “YES” “I can believe again and I can become something great” and with that I can teach others to do so as well. Thank you MSJC and the DSP department for all your support.

Finding My New Normal by Kelly Buettner

Kelly Buettner photoIf you asked me to describe my learning abilities 5 years ago, I would have told you that I excel in school and loved every bit of the experience. While serving in a military combat zone I suffered a traumatic brain injury.  The hardest part for me was recognizing and then, accepting that there was something wrong. I knew that I needed to ask for help, so I could continue my educational goals. I had to relearn basic skills and do memories exercises to help rebuild the neurons in my brain. Where there is a will, there is always a way!  Now, with the help of neurologist, TBI experts, support groups and educational programs such as DSPS available to me, I have learned that I am not alone on this journey in finding or redefining my new normal. All’s I had to do was ask for the help and the support, guidance and expertise was there to assist me.  Now, I continue to excel in school and love every bit of the experience, for this I am very grateful!

Things Get Sticky Sometimes By Stepheny Estes

Stepheny Estes photoI am a returning student.  I have also been diagnosed as being Bi- Polar phase one since 2000.  Though I struggle to stay stable on my medication, things can still get sticky at times.  This is due to the fact that I am a mother of four, head of the household, and also a full-time student.  I am living a great life and I have a son going to college in the fall. I count my blessings each day knowing that my mental illness doesn’t preclude my life.  Dealing with mental illness has been key in my decision to take on Psychology as a major.  Eventually I want to be a Creative Arts Therapist and treat children or Veterans with PTSD through Art.

Keep Moving Forward by Jessica Fox

Jessica Fox photoAt the age of ten, I was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome.  Over time, I have come to realize that my condition has become a part me. Then when I was just starting my senior year of high school I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia also. It was one of the darkest moments of my life, I was in severe pain and some days I never even made it out of my room.  Anyone that has a disability, whether it’s mental or physical, can tell you how hard it is trying to find a medication that works, and some of the medication was worse than the pain I was experiencing. I have finally discovered a medicine that numbs my pain and allows me to do the things I was doing before (of course not everything).  Ever since I was little, I have dreamt of doing something extraordinary to improve the lives of the people around me.  Now, with the help my medication I am able to go to college and keep moving forward living the life of an average college student.

Seeing the Progress in the Struggle by Leticia Gomez

Leticia Gomez photoI have been attending MSJC since 2016. I am a single mother of two beautiful boys of ages 4 and 13. I was diagnosed with severe depression after the loss of my daughter Lucy and an abusive relationship. The depression makes it difficult for me to focus academically and also, English is my second language. There are many times that it gets overwhelming with school, work, kids, and I want to give up. But I look back and see the progress I have made and the challenges I have faced. I know that it’s hard right now but at the end of it will be satisfying to say I did it!

The Vision to Succeed by Alexzander Manfredi

Alexzander Manifredi photoWhen I was born, my right eye was blind because of a birth defect.  Some kids in my elementary and middle school years made fun of me, and some thought my right eye was cool. I overcame the negativity by not letting anyone make me feel like I’m nothing or not lowering my self-esteem.  I can get through life and try my hardest in spite of how many times people try to put me down. I believe everyone can overcome struggles in their life. I wanted to have success in life and not let the negativity get to me.  Sometimes other people think that a person with a disability cannot be anything in the world when in reality, when you try your hardest you will become what you want in life.

Pursuing My Dream by Christopher Matranga

Christopher Matranga photoI have been attending MSJC for the last 3 semesters.  Throughout life, I have gotten past disabilities that are with me today.  At the age of 3, I was diagnosed with Autism.  Two months later, I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes which I have lived with every day since.  Growing up autistic, I thought it was normal. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized socially I was different than my peers around me. At age eleven, seizures would become another obstacle I would have to overcome. My family has helped me in my education and I have been able to learn at a college level because of their support. In following my dreams I have been able to accomplish various goals toward earning an associate’s degree and learning how the world works.   Despite my disabilities, I have learned to live with them and continue to pursue my dream of becoming a computer specialist.

Impossible - Means I'M Possible! by Diana Melendez

Diana Melendez photoMy name is Diana. I was diagnosed with Usher’s Syndrome, a degenerative eye disease that leads to partial or total blindness and hearing loss, about 8 years ago and my life has become a series of adjustments since then. I recently had to give up a career I LOVED because of my disease, but with the help of the Department of Rehabilitation and DSPS I am able to experience college for the second time and work towards my degree in Studio Art. I have always loved drawing, painting, and arts and craft and MSJC has encouraged me to embrace my goal and believe that I can continue to work on my passion even if I do end up with total blindness. My first semester back, I achieved a 3.867, a feat I am incredibly proud of because as a single mother to three girls and my disability, it required a lot of dedication and a healthy dose of believing in myself and my capabilities. DSPS has been instrumental in helping me work with my instructors so that I can continue to succeed. It may take extra effort to be a student with a disability, but the support system that MSJC has created for us makes all things possible.

The Right Tools for the Job by Luis Muller

Luis Muller photoFrom an early age my parents knew my mind worked differently than others, I had difficulty sitting still and doing one activity but instead did several things at once. I had trouble focusing on a single task, but when I did it was done with great detail. This created a struggle when I started school. By the sixth grade I went to independent academy as it allowed me to study at my pace, in a calm environment. This was a success, and I completed through high school two years in advance. The next step was college, but I hit an educational barrier of structure, I had an extreme difficulty grasping full information. I struggled with poor grades and many withdraws from class. Then I was recommended DSPS, they helped me, with tips, services, and being there to support me. In the past two years I was able to recover my grades, GPA, and complete my classes, with high success rate. I have been accepted to CSUSM for Fall 18, a task that without the amazing staff at DSPS, and MSJC I would not have been able to manage.  I look forward to school now, and success at CSUSM using the tools that I have learned.