This guest post is by Quillan Romeo Barrera, a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into the University of Alabama, at Birmingham – Deans Nursing Scholars Program, University of Southern Mississippi – Early Nursing Program, University of St Louis – Health Science Center & the University of Tampa – Health Science Center. Quillian is applying for the Spring 2021 Making a Difference Autism Scholarship via the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference started by me, Kerry Magro. I was nonverbal till 2.5 and diagnosed with autism at 4 and you can read more about my organization here.
I hope you can support my nonprofit like I’m trying to support these students with scholarship aid for college. Learn more on how you can help our cause with a small donation (just asking for $3 today, equal to your daily cup of coffee) here.
As a senior in high school, I have finally begun to see myself as important and found my voice. I was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) at 3 years old. At the time of diagnosis, Hurricane Katrina had just hit and I lost my home, both sets of grandparents lost their home and all of my cousins lost their homes as well. We lived in a hotel for 3 months until we found a place to rent. My grandmother and great grandmother had to come live with us which turned out to be a blessing.
I was enrolled in a preschool program and my teachers suspected something was “not right” with me. My mother got on a waiting list (due to Katrina, there were no doctors around and those that were, had extremely long lists of patients waiting to see them). When I finally got in, I took an autism test and my doctor diagnosed me with PDD-NOS. I went through multiple therapies to help me and then I would later be diagnosed with Aspergers at 6 years old. I attended a public school as my parents thought that I would get the “best” accommodations there to meet my needs. While this was correct, it came at a hefty price, my sense of self.
I attended public school from Kindergarten through fifth grade and was bullied to the point that I did not want to go to recess any longer. They had introduced the “friendship bench” but the bullies knew what that bench meant (or at least what it meant to them). I did not use the bench and decided that I would help out in the school office during lunchtime to avoid having to go outside to the wolves.
In 6th grade my mother had enough of going to the school weekly, “negotiating my IEP”, and being my biggest cheerleader and advocate. I enrolled in a fantastic, INCLUSIVE, middle school. I will never forget the first day that I went to shadow another student. It was lunchtime and I was VERY nervous, multiple kids came up to me and introduced themselves. I was quite uncomfortable in social situations and was not sure what this meant. Were they going to mock me, laugh, or just be indifferent towards me? They asked me question after question, I answered but did not ask any questions in return. The day ended and my mom and dad picked me up. They asked the normal parent question “How was your day?” I told them about the kids asking me a lot of questions. They told me that the kids were trying to get to know me and were interested in me. They explained that when people ask you questions they want to know more about you. Who knew? They decided to send me to this school and it was the best decision they could have ever made for me. I have made lifelong friendships and now have more than one friend.
I am very excited to begin college. Due to my test anxiety, I was very concerned about college acceptance. I had taken the ACT multiple times and could not get my score where I wanted it. My parents work at one of the schools in which I applied, I could have gone there on a tuition waiver but the ACT score needed for admittance was a 31 and I got a 26 on my composite ACT. I was extremely disappointed about not getting in but they have cheered me on and encouraged me to keep applying. I have applied to 15 schools and have been admitted to two of the early Bachelor of Nursing programs. The cost of attendance is quite high at both schools and they are both out of state so there is the out-of-state tuition to factor in. I plan to get my Bachelor of Nursing and then potentially explore travel nursing once I get into the field.
It will be a great honor for me to complete my degree. I went through a period of thinking school was mandatory torture, I now have a new perspective and cannot wait to see what is next!
My name is Kerry Magro, a professional speaker and best-selling author who is also on the autism spectrum that started the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference in 2011 to help students with autism receive scholarship aid to pursue a post-secondary education. Help support me so I can continue to help students with autism go to college by making a tax-deductible donation to our nonprofit here.