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Don't call Lucy a ‘freak

' you may see her in court


Staff Writer

Lucy Alvarez is smart, articulate, passionate about issues — and she drives a cool hot pink motorized wheelchair.

"I just want other people to see people with disabilities as humans just like them … not like freaks or aliens from another planet."

Lucy is a 19-year-old English major at Imperial Valley College and she has her sights set on becoming a lawyer.

But it's not likely Lucy will become a legal eagle like F. Lee Bailey or Johnny Cochran.

Lucy's intention is to become a lawyer who advocates for people with disabilities — and there's no grandstanding or fabulous retainer fees in that work.

"I want to help people because I feel people with disabilities need someone to be an advocate for them and I feel I'm very qualified for it!"


Not overly interested in discussing the mechanics of her disability, Lucy briefly explains that she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant.

Yes, she'll tell you, she does use a wheelchair as a means of getting from point A to point B and yes, she does have an assistant help her on campus but that's about it — everything else she does and achieves in her daily life is because of her tenacity and sheer will to excel.

"Last semester I made the dean's list and that made me very happy," she says.

Sitting on campus Thursday afternoon, her hair still damp from swimming class, Lucy described how her day at IVC might typically entail more time spent away from her wheelchair than in it.

"I do adapted physical education and I stand up at the bar in the gym and I lift weights."

It's easy to sense the passion in Lucy when she says, "I want people to see me like a regular person despite my disability. I want people to know I'm a human being just like the rest of them even though I do need special equipment and special care. … I want them to know that I am capable of doing anything anybody else can do!"

An upbeat young lady with a wonderfully engaging smile, Lucy also candidly admits to succumbing to depression on occasions.

"Yes, sometimes I do get depressed and cry because of my disability," she says with a sigh.

"I ask the people close to me — my mom, Cecilia, my dad — ‘Am I being punished for something … why am I like this?'"

And it's clear that what troubles her more than her disability is the knowledge of the pain that question causes those who love her.

"Every time I ask them that question, I know it tires them and makes them sad … so I just try to cope with it as best as possible."

Meeting with Lucy's mother Herminia Alvarez ("Minnie" to friends) makes it clear where Lucy got her happy smile and gentle disposition.

Patently proud of her ambitious daughter, Alvarez says, "She's always loved school and we've always encouraged her and pushed her to do her best."

Smiling at the memory of Lucy as a young child, Alvarez giggles as she tells how Lucy would say, "OK, give me $5 and I'll make the honor roll!"

"And we did give her the $5 … she has cost us a lot of $5 over the years," Alvarez says with pride.

Just before heading home to Brawley on Thursday afternoon, Lucy pauses and in a quiet and dignified voice says, "I want them to know that I'm here — the people I went to high school with who didn't believe in me, who didn't think I was capable of going to college or doing anything for myself."

Struggling for a moment to fight back tears, Lucy said, "They would criticize me and they would tell me ‘Oh Lucy, you'll never go to college, you'll never amount to anything.' That hurt a lot."

Successfully keeping back the tears, Lucy's final words were "I want them to know that I'm here in college and I'm doing very well for myself!"

>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or

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