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As a kid, Miguel Chavez never wanted to be inside. The further his childhood adventures took him from his family’s southeast Fresno home, the happier he was. Now it’s inside that home where he spends most of his time. Confined to a wheelchair under the constant supervision of a nurse, Chavez has spent the majority of the last 19 years indoors. His only escape? School. And now he hopes higher education will take him the furthest from home he’s ever been…all the way across the country. But first, he says, he needs a special pair of glasses.
Chavez was hit by a car while crossing the street when he was four. He wasn’t expected to survive the accident, but he did. A doctor was able to restore his ability to breathe and mobility from the neck up. After more than a year in a hospital, Chavez was released and had to learn how to adapt to his new life. It was a roller coaster emotionally, but Chavez eventually found purpose in school. When he got to junior high, he started to envision a future for himself that would carry him through his high school special education courses, earning him a certificate of completion. Two years later, Chavez would earn his diploma through an adult education program.
“A certificate just says, well, you just completed 12 years of school. A diploma gives me an opportunity to go to any college I want.”
Before heading to Fresno City College, his first step towards higher education, Chavez hopes to raise enough money to buy special glasses that will allow him to operate a computer. But make no mistake, he’s already pretty tech-savvy. (When I arrived to interview Chavez, he was texting using a stylus he operates with his mouth.) Chavez says the glasses he’s hoping to get will allow him to fulfill his goal of being the first person in his family to attend college. And not just any college, but his dream university: Harvard. After that, he hopes to open his own business.
Here, Chavez talks about the events of October 11, 1996, learning English in the hospital after the accident, and his big goals for his education and future.