Success Does Not Require Condition


Senior Alfred Cardenas, a student in the SPED program, won an award in March at the Regional Braille Challenge.

By Alfred Cardenas

Everyone has a story to tell. We all have a message to express, and that message is clear: there should not be any limits to be successful in life. We all learn at our own pace, and it is in our hands to break the boundaries that slow us down.

Arandi Campos, a graduate from Miami High’s Special Education Program, said one thing he would like people to know about him is that he is autistic and proud. “Not everyone knows this, but I have moderate autistic spectrum disorder, a disorder in which I have trouble learning certain things and I may take longer than others to learn. For example, I did not learn to read fluently until the age of 10. However, through hard work and determination I read now at a 12th grade level. What I’m saying is just because a person doesn’t learn as fast as others doesn’t mean they’ll never learn. You just need to have patience and an extreme amount of self-determination so that you can be awesome both academically and in life.”

Every student should have access to an education that does not limit their success. Special Education teacher Ms. Garcia said, “The purpose of special education is to provide equal access to education for children ages birth through 21 by providing specialized services that will lead to school success in the general curriculum.” According to Special Ed coordinator Ms. Wilcox, Special Education programs help those students who have learning needs to succeed in the classroom. “For example, maybe they need accommodations, a modified curriculum, or even a gifted/advanced curriculum,” she said.

Ms. Wilcox said there are approximately 290 students in the SPED program, not including the gifted students. “We service all 12 of the 13 disabilities identified under IDEA (Individual with Disabilities Education Act) except those that need a hospital or homebound program. The largest population of SPED students at MHS are those identified as having a learning disability.”

To ensure the academics success of every student who is part of the special ed program, the school, the special counselors, and the parents work together to provide and accommodate the services and benefits of each individual student. Special education counselor Dr. Philips said the program offers many services adapted to student needs. She said, “Some of the accommodations and services offered may include: one on one sessions with Speech Therapists, a modified curriculum (which is designed to meet the students’ specific needs), and an IEP (Individualized Education Plan)—which designates all the services and accommodations a student would need in school to be successful.”

Ms. Hernandez, who works with students with learning needs, added, “Students may receive accommodations like:  extra time to finish work, extra time during testing, seating arrangements, better lighting, and emotional therapy.”

Alfred with his parents at the Braille competition.

On the other hand, in order to maintain and provide the students with services , the Special Ed program must obtain funding to succeed. “Funds come from the federal government,” said Ms. Wilcox. “The Special Education Law called IDEA (Individual with Disabilities Education Act) helps and distributes the funding obtained from the government to assist the program with the required services for the students.” Students counselor Mr. Cuevas added the IDEA governs how funding is provided to special education programs, early intervention agencies, and special resources for more than 6.5 million students. “Infants and toddlers, birth through age 2, with disabilities and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. Children and youth ages 3 through 21 receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B,” he said.

However, the success of the SPED program does not rely only on the support obtained by the federal government. Instead, both students and staff work together to expand and support the Special Education program. Ms. Garcia said in her 22 years she has been in Miami High, she feels very impressed that the overall students at our school have not been judgmental towards students with special needs. “To further improve our special education program, or SPED, we can continue to bring awareness to our community of the opportunities to engage and participate in activities with our students in SPED e.g., attending sporting events, lunch, encouraging them to join other clubs in addition to Best Buddies.”

“Knowing what the rules or laws are would be a great way for students and support staff to support the program,” said special education teacher Ms. Rivero, “both students and staff should advocate for better programs and services that could push the academic goals of any student in the program.”

Some people believe that in order to provide the students with the best accommodations in the classroom, the program itself should be modified. “There needs to be a life skills class so that the SPED students can be more independent in life, the school work needs to be slightly more challenging towards the SPEED students who show a higher knowledge in their respected area of academics, and there needs to be more educational field trips so that the SPEED students can see what’s out there in the world while learning something new,” said Maimi High SPEED program alumnus Arandi Campos.

“The Special Education Program can improve,” added Ms. Hernandez, “if we focus in servicing our students more and make sure they learn the skills they will need to succeed after graduation.”

The most important thing that we have to do is treat and respect others regardless of any disability. Assistant principal Ms. Barreto added she has a son who was diagnosed with autism from the age of 3 years old. But even though she has been discouraged many times, she never let anyone stop her from fighting for her son’s future. She said, “My son made me humble and kind, and I would not trade him for the world.  I love him with all my heart, and I have a very strong understanding of ESE, and a great deal of empathy for my students with special needs.”


My Story


I believe that everything in life is possible no matter the obstacles that lie in our path. I was born with a condition called: Peter’s anomaly which unfortunately doesn’t allow me to see. I already had 17 surgeries in the past to help me restore my vision. Unfortunately, this was not possible. However, even though the journey was very tough for me, I never gave up.

Thanks to the Special Education program at school, I have been able to have all the resources that I need to complete my classes and achieve my academic goals and even go beyond that by taking higher curriculum classes.

Outside of school, I was able to achieve my dream of becoming an actor, and musician, which has been my biggest passion. In addition to this, I have been able to participate in rigorous competitions such as the Braille Challenge, which is a competition to test students in different aspects of Braille. Like everybody, I have been through ups and downs, but I never let that push me back. I know that with hard work and determination, we can make the best version of ourselves regardless of any condition.