Disabled Students Bring Life to Campus

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el-vaquero-staff-writer/" class="creditline">NANCY AGBENU
El Vaquero Staff Writer

It is noon at GCC.

Nonchalantly, students walk, roll or stroll into Room 119 of the San Fernando Building. Some lean against the wall, while others swing into one of the brown desks and still others skillfully position their wheelchairs in the unfilled spots between the classroom rows. No one stands in the corner. An atmosphere of friendship and acceptance fills the highly air-conditioned classroom as new and more students walk in, cheerfully greet each other, shake hands, share jokes and take out their lunches. Once again it is another Tuesday and the club members of Delta Sigma Omicron (DSO) call for the attendance sheet to be passed around.

Though DSO is only one of the more than 25 different clubs at GCC, it stands out by the simple yet determined goal of “making a difference” for disabled and non-disabled students on campus. It all started with DSO’s founder, Jorge Acevedo, who stepped on GCC’s club stage five years ago when his life was interrupted by a tragic accident.

“I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my life when I got shot. But then I had two goals: to graduate from college and to start a club,” said Acevedo, first president of DSO.

Late on the evening of Christmas in 1999 while driving to his Mt. Washington home, Acevedo was shot three times during a carjacking. Two bullets hit his left leg while the third tore into the base of his skull leaving him partially paralyzed. When he awoke from his coma he had to relearn to walk and talk.

Before his accident the former Belmont High School football player aspired to become a police officer. “I believe we are put here for a reason,” Acevedo said.

Shortly after his recovery, Acevedo began to pick up his dream again and volunteered at the Glendale Police Department while attending GCC. In 2002, Acevedo won the department’s Volunteer of the Year Award.

Last semester, Acevedo graduated from GCC in law enforcement and today the 33-year-old works for the Glendale Police Department, tracking stolen goods. He not only initiated GCC’s first disabled students club, but bejeweled it with excellent awards.

“Jorge is an inspiration,” said Kathryn Camp, DSO’s faculty advisor. “He has overcome many obstacles with courage and perseverance and hard, hard work. Jorge does not give up in the face of serious difficulties. He truly wants and does make a difference [and] has a great sense of humor,” Camp said.

When DSO was founded in spring 2002, it only had three members, but its participators and activities steadily mounted up so that in the fall of that year the club already won the Most Outstanding Club Award (MOCA).
ASGCC Vice President of Campus Organizations Narine Tadevosyan describes DSO as a very dedicated club. “They don’t miss any events and are very optimistic,” said Tadevosyan. “They always put in 100 percent in whatever they do and whenever we have an event they are one of the first to come.”

This May, the club received a certificate of appreciation for hard work and dedication as a member of the Inter Organizational Council (IOC) and today DSO is the first and only club on campus that gears its members with its own baseball hats.

“I always wanted to join a club at school,” said Acevedo. “But people saw I was in a wheelchair. They saw the disability and not the person, so I started my own club.”

One of DSO’s goals is to address student grievances and to provide a positive atmosphere for students sharing the campus experience. “I see [our] guys doing things even though they are disabled and not [allowing] their disabilities to crush them,” said Acevedo.

Despite its initial focus on disabled students, DSO is now dedicated to reaching all campus students and believes every student will benefit from increased social awareness, said Camp.

“People tend to ignore those with disabilities because they don’t want to deal with the fact that it can happen to them,” said Maya Rumble who is a member of various clubs and has friends in DSO.

“They are not disabled; they are simply differently-abled,” said the 21-year-old art history major. “I know a person who went mountain climbing and had an athletic accident,” said Rumble. “These are things that could happen to everyone.”

Erin Jackson is one of DSO’s members who volunteered last Thursday to sell popcorn during Club Rush Week. “I definitely suggest for the club to be even more active this semester,” said the pony-tailed young woman during the last club meeting. Jackson wears one of the new DSO baseball caps widely pulled in her face which makes the hearing aid on her right ear almost unnoticeable. She and David Sinatra, who had a traffic accident and is president in training, were previously awarded a $150 DSO scholarship for outstanding participation in club activities.

“I am ready for any challenge given to me. Whether it is here or anywhere, bring it on! Your life can change, but it doesn’t have to stop,” said Acevedo.