Cerebral Palsy Couldn’t Temper One Young Man’s Drive to Succeed

Randy Reyes will be a freshmen at Borough of Manhattan Community College in this September. (Photo via El Diario La Prensa)

Randy Reyes, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was not expected to survive infancy, let alone graduate from high school, as he did last month, El Diario La Prensa reported. In September, he will attend Borough of Manhattan Community College as a freshman, where he hopes to study to become a special education teacher “so he can tell students like him to never give up.” The article is translated below. 

After hearing the word “impossible” throughout his life, 20-year-old Randy Reyes, a young man with cerebral palsy, graduated with honors on June 28 from a high school in Upper Manhattan. His mother, María Reyes, described how he was born premature and the doctors said he wouldn’t survive, so he was baptized “in articulo mortis” (meaning “at the point of death” in Latin).

When he kept growing, the doctors said that because of his disorder, he was never going to be able to crawl or walk. When he wanted to go to school, many schools did not accept him because they didn’t think he would be able to manage. Throughout his years as a student, the various surgical operations he has had because of his health problems — 21 in all, the most recent only a few weeks ago, on his last day of classes — made Randy think he would never finish high school.

Today Randy walks, speaks two languages, is self-sufficient, and has graduated at the top of his class from the High School of Graphic Communication Arts. Now he is getting ready for college to become a special education teacher, so he can tell students like him to never give up.

“If I can do it, you can do it,” Randy said during a visit to his apartment in Washington Heights, where he lives with his mother, his niece, and his older brother. “That’s what I would tell students who face challenges and don’t think they are capable of being successful in life. You only need some help and support.”

Randy has always received help and support from his mother.

“Randy and I have spent 20 years re-educating school principals, teachers, and doctors that only told us no,” said Ms. Reyes. “The reality is that only a mother truly knows her son. You don’t have to take a step backward or not reach for doors until they open for you. I would like to get in contact now with the expert who told me when Randy was four years old that he wasn’t going to talk and that he wouldn’t be able to do anything.”

Randy still has obstacles to face. Despite having graduated with honors, six universities have rejected him so far because they weren’t convinced by his grades and personal accomplishments.

“That’s the bad thing about this country, they reduce people to numbers,” lamented Ms. Reyes. “On the other hand, I think that outside of the United States, my son would never have been able to achieve what he has. All of the tools and necessary services are here; the only thing missing is training and education for parents. I hope that my son is an example to them and enlightens them.”

Borough of Manhattan Community College finally accepted Randy and has put all of the resources he needs at his disposal so that he can have a great college experience. He will start in September.

Meanwhile, Randy has a dream. “Now that I’ve shown everyone what I can do,” he said, “I would like to travel the world.”