Graduation Inspiration

John Osana sits in on a pre-algebra class as he works on

Born with cerebral palsy, GHS senior John Osana is determined
not to let that hinder his success
Gilroy – John Osana can’t walk or talk. An aide helps feed him at lunch time.

To communicate, he runs one lethargic finger over a computer mouse and places the cursor over each letter individually. But the 18-year-old, who was born with what doctors have diagnosed as cerebral palsy, has managed to pass the California High School Exit Exam – impressive considering there are still about 109 local high school seniors who only have one more chance to pass.

It took Osana a couple of times to pass the math portion but he aced the English section the very first time. And, since he’ll earn his Gilroy High School diploma this spring, Osana is in the midst of planning his future.

“I wanna do animation but I also wanna produce my own music,” he typed, when asked about his post-high school plans.

The screen saver is covered with pictures of a girl bending over to kiss him. A friend? He nods.

The high school senior, who will attend Gavilan College next school year, wants to create digital animation for movies and produce “my own style” of music. He said he knows people in the rap industry, particularly one named “brother ig,” a San Jose-based Christian rapper.

The laptop Osana’s aide lugs from class-to-class serves as the high schooler’s voice box, and he writes the way most of us speak, using slang words and abbreviations.

He hears perfectly well. He understands the words coming from his classmates’ and teachers’ lips and when he has something to say, words will slowly appear on the computer. He writes “Wat” instead of “what”, “y” if he doesn’t understand the point and “dat” rather than “that.”

When his aide, Mike Nesbit, mentions that his charge may use the services of OUTREACH while attending Gavilan College, Osana makes it known that he’s not a fan of the nonprofit.

“Outreach sucks,” he typed.

Nesbit asked him if it’s because they’re late so often and unreliable. He nodded.

OUTREACH is a United Way Agency, that was incorporated as a nonprofit agency in 1979. The company provides transportation and assistance for more than 10,200 frail seniors and disabled adults in Santa Clara County, according to their Web site.

Osana was born in San Jose but raised in Gilroy, the youngest of four siblings. He used to use a walker but after a fall in preschool, he stuck to his wheelchair.

At GHS he takes normal classes, such as Web site design, advanced digital design, marine science, English and economics. Nesbit – who is paid by the district to help Osana through his day – meets him at the bus in the morning, escorts him to classes, sets up his laptop and gives him individual help on lessons.

During a morning class, Osana sat in his wheelchair, with Nesbit on his side. He laughed easily, particularly when he thought a guests’ inquiry or a classmates’ comment to the teacher was amusing.

So what does it feel like for his mind to be trapped in a body that doesn’t work? Does he get frustrated when people assume that he’s not mentally alert?

“Well, everyone knows not to disrespect me,” he typed.

Edgar Castro sort of serves as his unofficial body guard. The 17-year-old senior has known Osana since their eighth grade year at South Valley Middle School.

“I’m there for him whenever he needs me,” Castro said. “Sometimes I hear people make fun of him and I just tell them to back off.”

But the majority of students are just curious. They want to know if Osana can talk, move his arms, think. Why he’s the way he is. In class, students treat him respectfully, joking around and commenting about his starring role in the newspaper.

“He has quite an awesome peer support (group),” Nesbit said.

Osana and Castro were the CAHSEE tutorial class together until Osana passed the test. Castro still has to take the March test and if doesn’t pass this time he won’t graduate.

“They (teachers) tell me if John could do it I don’t see how you couldn’t do it,” he said. “He’s an inspiration.”

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