home Future Students Current Students Faculty and Staff Business and Community Online Courses
For One Student, a Day to Remember

Summer 2010 | Archives

Alex Diaz

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 dumb."

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."

Contact Us