From Troubled Teen to Community Role Model

A high school freshman in 1995, Vicente Rosas planned to spend his Christmas break with friends. His mother sent him to a school outside his neighborhood to keep him away from local gangs, but now he had two weeks to reconnect with old companions. On his first night out, he was shot in a gang-related shooting. The bullet hit his spine.

“Before the EMTs got to me, I knew I was going to die, and all I could think of was that I had not really lived. After all my mother had done for me, I was making things harder for her.”

When he woke up at Harris Health Ben Taub Hospital after surgery, he was just happy to be alive.  “It’s the best Trauma Center in the world. The people there saved my life.”

Two days later, he learned he was paralyzed. He lost hope and became depressed. Therapy at the health system’s Pediatric Injury Clinic was intended to teach him to live in a wheelchair, but that wasn’t what he wanted. After several months, a therapist offered him a walker. He was determined to use it.

With no intentions of returning to school in a wheelchair, Vicente had tutors at home. An IQ test revealed a score of 144.

“I knew I was smart. I had potential, but I didn’t try. There was no point. In my neighborhood, people didn’t graduate from high school, much less go to college. I had no role models. But when I graduated from the walker to a cane with four legs, I decided to return to school.”

This time, he worked at it. And made As and Bs, scored 1020 on his SAT, and was named Most Improved Junior.

He learned about a minority engineering program at The University of Oklahoma, and earned a four-year scholarship, graduating in 2005 with a degree in chemical engineering.

Now, he is in his sixth year with a prestigious engineering firm designing refinery equipment. And he’s a role model to youth in his community.

Today, Vicente walks without the use of a cane, ready to set new goals. “God gave me so much. If walking was it, I was going to be OK with that, but He lets me keep succeeding.”

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