The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Viewpoint: Communications student shares successes and hardships

By James Ratcliff/@JamesR5767

A young man among the student body of Texas A&M University-San Antonio who, like the 711 students alongside him, will graduate on May 15.

This young man, who hails from a small town south of San Antonio, does not claim he took an easy road to higher education.

Born into a low-income family, he faced many challenges from the start.

According to his father, Jim, the young man was diagnosed with a high-functioning form of autism called Asperger’s when he was around 6 years old.

A person with autism struggles with communication and social skill developments, as was the case in the young man’s childhood.

Given that Asperger’s is on the high-functioning scale of the autism spectrum, Jim said the young man, despite his diagnosis, showed his capabilities as a child.

“The thing about kids with Asperger’s is that they don’t communicate well,” Jim said.

While still a boy, the young man had to be held back from public schooling until he was around 7 years old. Eventually, he caught up with his age group.

However, school amounted to one daunting task after the next.

Because of his autism, he struggled to comprehend basic communication skills and often got agitated at anyone and anything that did not seem right to him.

The problem worsened when he was 10 years old when his parents divorced and he had to change schools after completing the fifth grade.

Eventually, childhood gave way to adolescence, and the young man faced additional trials.

The growing pains associated with his teenage years, coupled with a less-than-friendly high school environment, weighed on him.

Thankfully, these temporary pains yielded. In spite of all he faced at the time, he graduated with honors from Falls City High School in 2007. To this day, he still supports the Falls City Beavers football team. In 2010, the Beavers claimed the school’s first state championship in football. The young man went to the game to see his alma mater take home the trophy.

However, reality came crashing down after graduating from high school.

After attempting to take online-only courses at another institution, the young man eventually dropped out after realizing maybe he was not college material. Wracked with depression, he took time away from college to find life’s purpose.

During that time, the young man became an uncle for the first time, which is something he takes pride in daily. Over time, he became the uncle to four nephews and two nieces. His  relationship with them remains strong.

After much coaxing from his family, in 2010 he enrolled at Palo Alto College, a Hispanic-serving institution which opened in 1985 after a hard-won battle by parents who wanted a higher education institution on the long-neglected southern sector of Bexar County.

Shifting from part-time to full-time over the course of three years, and only made possible by the support of his family, the young man graduated in 2013 with his Associate of Arts in Communications.

Later that year, he enrolled at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, where he continued his pursuit of higher education. During that time, he worked tirelessly to complete upper-division studies as a communications major and English minor.

Through the support of his family and the staff, he became a senior reporter for The Mesquite for the 2015 spring semester.

He eagerly awaits the day he receives his bachelor’s degree.

“I’m proud of how far he has come. We’ve gone on this journey together, as a family,” said his mother, Mary.

The young man’s sister, Margaret shows pride that he never gave up as he went through his schooling.

While this tale of the young man may end here, remember this:

If I can do it, so can you.

About the Author

James Ratcliff
James Ratcliff
James Ratcliff is a senior reporter for The Mesquite. James is a communications major and an English minor. He wrote previously for The Pulse at Palo Alto College. He also has experience covering high school football for different publications. In addition to his work, James is an avid gamer and sports fan.

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