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One Step at a Time: A Graduate’s Story

Most parents dream of the day their child will walk across the stage at graduation. But for Consolacion Gamez, a mother of an LBJ Early College High School student, seeing her son walk across the stage wasn’t something she expected even a month ago.

In his junior year, Arturo Gamez—who was diagnosed with leukemia in fifth grade—found out his cancer was back.

“I always told myself that if my leukemia came back, I’d probably miss a lot of stuff, so I kind of already accepted that I would miss [graduation],” Arturo said.

Following his diagnosis, Arturo was in the hospital for nearly six months and left the hospital in a wheelchair, which he was using up until a few weeks ago.

Last week, Arturo walked across the Erwin Center’s stage amid cheers.

But Arturo said crossing the stage at graduation wasn’t his goal for learning to walk again and neither was going to the ceremony just because his friends and family wanted him to attend.

“But I’m glad I decided to attend. I wanted to go for myself, not for everyone else. With all the physical therapy I do at home, I’m motivated to walk on my own, so graduation wasn’t really the goal.”

While Arturo said his school worked with him when necessary to get a notetaker or extend his assignments, he never wanted to be treated differently from his classmates.

“I didn’t like to be treated differently. I’m proud of myself,” Arturo said. 

His advice to others who finds themselves in a similar position is “find people who support you, but don’t baby you, build strong relationships and stay positive and find motivation to do your best.” 

Arturo plans to take online classes from Austin Community College until he can attend classes in person. While film and science are two of his greatest passions, he hasn’t decided on a major yet.

Arturo’s mother, Consolacion, said she was so proud of her son for graduating.  

“Even as he was fighting cancer, he was studying for school. He’s the youngest and saw his sisters get [college] degrees, and he’s always wanted to do as well or better as his sisters,” said Arturo’s mother Consolacion Gamez of her son’s graduation. “For me, it’s a big accomplishment. I can’t even express how big.”