Wheels to independence needed for MDC student

By Tere Estorino….

A van could bring Miami Dade College student Luis Vazquez closer to his career dream.

Luis Vazquez, a top student at Miami Dade College, dreams of a career as a computer technician for a major sports franchise. Surprisingly, it is a van that could bring this young man closer to his dream.

Vazquez, 21, straddles the line between a typical college student and the non-traditional student who strives to overcome obstacles to succeed. He has muscular dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair, but this does not stop the Kendall Campus student from having a 4.0 GPA and dreaming of a bright future.

Vazquez is dependent on Miami-Dade County’s Special Transportation Services to get around. Given the size of the community, budget reductions at the county and the volume of calls, the service is not always reliable for someone with big ambitions and a drive for independence and self-sufficiency.

He has been evaluated by a certified driver rehabilitation specialist who determined Vazquez would be able to drive if he had a vehicle that was modified to his needs.

The van Vazquez needs is a Chrysler Town and Country Limited Edition minivan, which will be able to accommodate his wheelchair and all the technology needed. The minivan costs between $30,000 and $40,000 and requires nearly $100,000 for modifications. A Federal and State Vocational Rehabilitation program will pay for the upgrades.

His parents, who he lives with, support all his activities, but do not have the means to acquire the van. The family currently has a van that is not suitable for wheelchairs, as it requires that the chairs be secured very tightly, which is difficult to do. Luis has a sister, Elizabeth, who also has muscular dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair. She also is studying at MDC.

“I’m always worried about my mom and sister riding in that van, but if I had my van, I would be able to help them,” Vazquez said. “It would be easier for both of us to get to school.”

“I won’t have to spend hours waiting for service and will be able to do more activities,” he added.

This is key for him, as the transportation service requires 24-hour notice, and waits can be grueling, which currently leaves him unable to participate in many of the activities young adults his age enjoy.

“I want to prove to people out there that despite my obstacles, I can make my dreams come true,” Vazquez said.

A van that can be modified to his needs would be the first step toward making that happen.

To help Luis Vazquez with his cause, visit online at www.makeluisdreamcometrue.blogspot.com.

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