Jessica Diaz

Undergrad Scholarship Recipient – Attending UCLA

“Before my time at Rancho, I was used to being around people with both physical and mental disabilities, however it was my experience being disabled that changed my outlook on others. Once I was taught to implement walking with a cane into my routine, I went from being a troublemaking teenager to a girl who needed the door opened for her and the walkways cleared as she passed. I saw this change in perspective in how others treated me now that they saw me as disabled, which reinforces how society treats people differently based on labels and appearances.

I now know that disabled people may need help, but by no means are helpless. From personal experience I know that any degree of independence is liberating to people who once could not do anything for themselves. Our ability to open our own door is a symbol of the effort we have put into our recovery.   Our canes and wheelchairs are trophies of our progress and benchmarks for greater things to come. To treat us as helpless strips away our pride and keeps us from showcasing the progress we have made.  Never again will I see a cane as a sign of a disability. Thanks to my time at Rancho I have learned to respect the use of any assistive devise as they aren’t a step down from “normality”, but a step in the right direction toward recovery, and especially because I know the journey it took to get there.”

In March of 2016 Jessica experienced a sharp pain to the neck and suddenly found herself paralyzed from the neck down. She was rushed to the hospital and the diagnosis was Transverse Myelitis.

“I just wanted to thank you for all you and Las Floristas has done for me and for Rancho, you guys really are making a difference.”

The Starlight Foundation awarded Jessica the honor of having one of the paintings that she did in the Rancho Art Program transfered to a tote bag which sold at over 1,200 Michaels Stores across the United States and Canada. All proceeds went back to the Starlight Foundation to buy equipment for severely ill or disabled kids.