San Bernardino, Calif. -- This month's featured coyote is Rafael Velasquez, known to all as Rafa. Recently Rafa fought tooth and nail for something most students take for granted.
He had, like the rest of the winter class of the Coyote Pack, been invited to a multi-national conference in Chicago. Students had to individually apply for a conference travel grant offered by ASI and the Office of Student Research. Eighteen students in the class, including him, received the grant. Unfortunately, that was not enough for Rafa. Rafa is wheelchair bound and would require a caretaker for this particular journey. The disabilities office at CSUSB told him they could only guarantee assistance on school grounds. They couldn’t provide him the assistance he needed to prosper in Chicago.
Rafa began to search for other avenues to get what he needed, talking to agencies and scholarship foundations for two weeks, while running dangerously close to the week of the trip. His classmates and colleagues pitched in to find a way to get his expenses funded, but hardly any were available for him. Eventually through student affairs and higher superiors of Student Services Disabilities he found funds, and was ready to go to Chicago.
Then suddenly, he had a family emergency and had to cancel his trip altogether. All his hard work was moot, but he continued to have a positive view towards the situation. An interview with Rafa quickly established his positive attitude and spirit that cannot be shaken.
Rafa’s life has been all about overcoming obstacles, ever since doctors told his mother he wasn’t going to survive to see eighteen. Before being diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy (MD) at age nine his mobility was uninhibited. “I used to walk,” says Rafa of his childhood. By age eleven he was using a walker to move around, before changing to a manual wheelchair. These days he uses a power chair to move around campus, but he still prefers a manual chair for places like his home. “It’s just ‘cause the campus is so big.”
Rafa’s educational process was tenseful, applying to Cal State Northridge, California State University Channel Islands, San Francisco State University, and California State University of San Bernardino (CSUSB). Deriving from a low-income family background, Rafa chose to attend CSUSB. This decision was based off location, resources, and survival. Rafa serves as an example for most, if not all students. Even with MD he has managed to overcome every obstacle he has faced. Rafa like any other student is looking to progress his education and life all around. He reflects on himself as well as his family for inspiration stating “Not everyone who has a disability relies on someone.” His success has came about encompassing himself around positive attitudes. He now refuses to associate with “negative centered individuals.” Rafa offered advice to individuals affected by negativity, “Ignore all the people that talk down to you because you're going to violate their expectations.”
His attitude and will-power has landed him a position, writing for Sports Hubb. Rafa’s aspirations(Long-term goals?) are to host his own TV show on a multi-national platform featuring segments on social, political, and personal projects. Before assuming his role, Rafa had made his first important decision in his life, deciding to attend CSUSB. Going by his own philosophy, he states, “You have to crawl before you walk.”