2010 | Archives
For most of his life, people told Alex Diaz he would never see
this day. In elementary and middle school, he faced classmates who
teased him and teachers who didn't understand him. Doctors
misdiagnosed him. Nobody figured he would make it to college.
But he proved them wrong. Diaz, who has Asperger syndrome,
graduated from MCC on May 14 with a degree in general studies. He
plans to attend the University of Nebraska–Omaha in the fall to
study radiation science technology. "I may have a
disability," he said, "but it doesn't mean I'm
Asperger syndrome is a type of autism characterized by impaired
social interaction skills, peculiar mannerisms and intense interest
in complex topics. Alex's mother, Millie, could sense her son's love
of learning early on—he just needed a chance. He also needed
teachers and caregivers who would understand how he could be
successful. Millie advocated for her son in front of skeptical
doctors and educators. "The whole idea was, 'We're going to do
this whether they think you can or not,'" she said. "'We're
going to achieve it.'"
After Diaz graduated from high school in 2006, he chose to attend
MCC because of the personalized attention he would receive from
teachers and academic counselors like Deb Eppenbaugh, who works with
students who have disabilities. Individuals with autism often have a
heightened level of anxiety, Eppenbaugh said, and loud classrooms or
harsh lighting can be difficult. When a class didn't work for Diaz,
Eppenbaugh worked to guide him toward classes that would.
Four years later, Diaz is ready to tackle the next challenge.
"I'm happy that now it's over, and it's time to move on," he
said. "I'm very happy with what I did at MCC."