Grad Stories (2014)
Chris Rios can see his future despite eyesight of 20/200 and having no central vision in one eye.
At age 13, the soon-to-be graduate of Norco College was diagnosed with chronic uveitis, a disease that attacks the eyes. Shortly after, he learned that juvenile rheumatoid arthritis was attacking his joints.
As a Riverside Poly High School student, Rios was in and out of hospitals, dealing with multiple doctors and numerous surgeries, while taking 15 medications. There were occasions where he nearly lost his vision. Today, at 23, he is on a medicine regimen to keep the vision he has left.
Through it all, Rios never lost sight of his goal--a college education.
He and the rest of the 2014 Norco College graduating class will celebrate their accomplishments on June 12.
“The disability makes pursuing my education harder and a (bigger) challenge,” he said. “Mentally, I strive for the best, but physically my body can’t keep up.”
Growing up Rios had been a visual learner, but because of his disability had to adapt to alternatives like kinesthetic learning.
“I’ll have good and bad days, but it doesn’t mean I allow the conditions to stop me from living. Nor does it define me or what I am capable of accomplishing,” he said. “If anything, the disabilities have motivated me to pursue and understand human behavior, social interaction, and how individuals see themselves.”
Regardless of the obstacles, Rios is determined to obtain a master’s degree and Ph.D. in psychology from UC Riverside, with a goal of becoming a marriage and family therapist with a concentration in eating disorders and couple counseling.
Rios said when he accomplishes his goal it will be a victory for many. His mother, Lillian Berrios, his godfather, Carlos Claudio, and his younger brother, Edgardo, have as much in his education as he does. His mother was a single mother of two boys, working minimum wage jobs. He credits Claudio with helping him accept what couldn’t be changed.
“My mother always motivated me to continue my studies and make my education a priority,” he said. “She believed that I would not only graduate from high school, but attend a university (specifically UCR) and achieve anything that I set my mind to. My godfather showed me that life has the tendency to put you down, be negative or simply just be difficult. The only way to fight back is with your head up and a smile on your face.”
His brother, Rios said, reminds him of “everything I’ve already accomplished and that I should be proud of it. He helps me cope with my disability in ways that no one has ever been capable of. Overall he helps me enjoy life regardless of the circumstances.”
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