Defined By Grace
There are many values one is born with that are essential to the definition of that individual's character from the inside out. This is espcially true for students who are abled differently abled here on the C.O.D. campus. One of the cornerstone qualities that these students possess is an unrelenting grace that carries them past even the most trying academic challenges. I was fortunate enough and extremely humbled to have called two of these extraordinary human beings my dear friends. Their names are Michael D. Shelton and Robin Radonich. Both of these individuals had a passion for life that burned endlessly; like a sapphire flame that was never extingiushed even after they entered the next state of existence. They also had the arduous task of living with the slow decline of the body known as muscular dystrophy, but as I have stated before their grace was unwavering even as their physical shells began torapidly deteriorate from the inside out.
Michael was a young man unmatched by his megawatt smile and calming blue eyes. He was shy and reserved at one moment and at the next ready to face life head on. Michael's devotion to hs education always left me in awe and spurred me on to succeed whenever I felt like packing it in and returming to my created role as the token handicapped person. The night of our graduation from Palm Desert High School on June 12, 1996, was a memorable evening for both of us as we sat with our classmates poised to take our place as young adults who were abled differently rather than as two voiceless, soulless mutes using our wheelchairs as an excuse for sympathy.
Robin Radonich was the epitome of this unrelenting grace, but she had the heart of a samurai warrior. Robin was not the type to take anyone's flack. With her long flowing locks that glistened in the California sun and the hues of blue like a never ending waterfall cascading thriugh her eyes, Robin seemed to intoxicate the soul of anyone she met. Robin's attitude toward being was steadfast and fearless; live with dignity.. I can recall the day I learned this pearl of wisdom from her. We were classmates in an Engish course at C.O.D back in 1997. I had given Robin one of my original poems entitled " Goddess of Courage" as a token of my esteem for our friendship. As Robin read my work. a single tear rolled down her cheek. Robin rolled up next to me, placed her hand in mine, and squeezed it with every ounce of strength she could muster. " Thank you for teaching me how to live again Nikki. I love you so much. In that moment I knew what friendship and true beauty meant. I watched Robin receive her AA degreeafter seven years of struggling to navigate through the web of academia. It was an uplifting day for both of us because like my experience with Michael, we were cementing our place in society as human beings who are abled differently.
Michael and Robin both made their exit from Hotel Earth in 1998, but they will always remain etched in my heart's chambers as the models of differently abled mentors who excelled not only at C.O.D, but in the University of Life as well. Now, when I roll about the campus as a writing tutor, I feel their presence with every rustle of a leaf or the whisper of the breeze across my face. They, as well as I will be forever implanted in the hearts and minds of many like the trees at Alumni Park and the C.O.D landscape as reminders that the wizened people with differently abilities who pass through the College of the Desert campus are scholars who are defined by grace