Making strides with cerebral palsy

By Lorie Hidalgo, Pulse staff writer

Albert Estrada (left) and Antonio Villanueva (right) enjoy PACfest.
Albert Estrada (left) and Antonio Villanueva (right) enjoy PACfest.
Photo by Armando Padilla.

“If people would just take five minutes [to talk with me], they would leave with a different mindset,” said Albert Estrada, a sophomore Liberal Arts major.

Estrada was born with cerebral palsy, and he uses a wheelchair to get around. Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect the posture and balance of a person. This condition is usually identified within the first years of life. No cure exists for cerebral palsy, but treatment does help improve a person’s quality of life.

Estrada has big dreams of opening his own business one day. He is one of many students at PAC who is making a difference and speaking up not only for himself, but also for others who are in need.

Although Estrada has movement in his arms and legs, he still requires the assistance of a provider every morning and someone to help him throughout the day. Requiring the help of someone frustrates him, but he knows that he has no other choice. Estrada is proud to say that he has improved his time management skills over the years.

“Nobody thinks about how they get up in the morning, but I have to. I have to plan my week ahead. I have to plan everything I do; I’m good at time management,” said Estrada.

Estrada’s disability does not hold him back from making every day count. His lively and charismatic personality is noticeable after spending a few minutes with him.

All those who know Estrada speak highly of him, referring to him as a role model and a great person to befriend here on campus.

“Estrada is unique and very open,” said Antonio Villanueva, chair of Behavioral Sciences and assistant professor of Psychology here at PAC.

“He’s an open book. He’s a really nice guy. He’s pretty smart, too,” said Villanueva.

The bond that has been built between these two is noticeable. Estrada believes that not only is Villanueva his teacher, he is also his friend.

“He taught me a lot, and I taught him. It’s a win-win,” said Estrada about Villanueva.

Estrada plans on opening his own business. It will be a place where people with disabilities can be assisted in finding a job and becoming more independent. He’s also interested in motivational and public speaking.

“[I want to] travel the world, see something different. I like to speak about my disability. If they would give me a chance, I would speak to more people about my disability,” said Estrada.

Estrada said that because many people have told him that he can’t do something, he is working very hard to prove all those individuals wrong.

“Somebody a long time ago told me I couldn’t do it. [They told me] I would never make it. So I use those hateful words every day of my life. When I feel like giving up and not doing anything with my life, I just remember that person. There have been a lot of people in my life who have doubted me, but I’m still here,” said Estrada.

The college’s Disability Support Services’ office offers a variety of assistance to students here on campus, ranging from classroom help with taking notes, extra time on exams, and even helping students with their transition from high school into college. These services are offered to any student who has a disability, whether it is temporary or lifelong. To contact the DSS, visit their office in the Palomino Center, Room 116, or call (210) 486-3020.

Rose Medrano, the senior coordinator of Disability Support Services, helps make arrangements and accommodations to those students who come into her office. She would love for more students to be willing to put themselves out there and help a fellow student.

A great way to get involved with the DSS is to join Delta Sigma Omicron, a club here at PAC that offers an open forum for activities and building bonds between both disabled students and able-bodied students on campus. This club is open to all students on campus who are interested in making friends and making a difference. DSO meetings are held the third Wednesday of the month in the Student Center Annex at 1 p.m.  Club fees are $5 per semester.  Events that DSO members participate in include PACfest and other forms of fundraisers.

Estrada is an advocate for change and making his voice heard. While he was a student at Somerset High School, he spoke up to have push buttons installed on the doors so he could easily maneuver his way in and out of school. Although the buttons were not installed until his senior year, Estrada was happy that this renovation made a difference in his life and the lives of others.

Estrada has also made a difference here at PAC. He voiced his concern when he experienced not being able to enter or exit the bathroom because there were no push buttons for doors to open automatically. While the issue was addressed and the changes were made, the women’s facilities were overlooked. Once again, Estrada voiced his concern after witnessing and assisting his friend, Roseanne Trujillo, into the men’s bathroom and standing guard outside. After this experience, Estrada spoke to Villanueva about the issue and Villanueva voiced his concern via email. The issue was quickly addressed and the changes were made to accommodate both male and female students who are wheelchair bound.

Buildings here on campus that have push buttons include Brazos first floor men’s and women’s; Palomino men’s and women’s; Guadalupe Hall men’s and women’s; Student Center Annex men’s and women’s; Performing Arts men’s and women’s; Natatorium first floor men’s and women’s; San Jacinto first floor men’s and women’s; and Medina Hall unisex restroom is still pending.

While Villanueva and Estrada both shy away from taking credit for the changes that were made here on campus, they are happy that the issues were addressed and accommodations took place. If you witness any situation that needs addressing, do not shy away from speaking up and having your voice heard. You just might be making a difference here on campus for not only yourself but for others.