Correction: Gordon Hartman, founder of Morgan’s Wonderland, donated $1,000 to Castro’s cause. Castro organized the fundraisers at Chick-fil-A and his Go Fund Me account.
Fiesta Especial adds to the diversity of Fiesta.
By Pam Paz
Political science sophomore Miguel Castro of Northwest Vista College is not the average college student.
Castro attends full-time, has a 3.15 GPA and serves as the vice president of the NVC Student Government Association and president of Project Dem, a student organization of Democrats.
He helped organize NVC’S mayoral candidate forum and played a role in getting new elevators installed on campus.
He is also a member of the San Antonio West Side Lions Club and is a board member of San Antonio Independent Living Services. He does all this despite having spina bifida and needing a wheelchair.
Spina bifida is the most common permanently disabling birth defect in the United States and may cause mental, social or physical problems, according to the Spina Bifida Association.
This year, Castro was named Duke to the Fiesta Especial Royal Court, a leadership and life skills development program for individuals with all types of disabilities, according to its website.
“Just because I’m special needs or handicapped doesn’t mean that I can’t participate in events like this. There are lots of things I can do,” he said.
Reaching Maximum Independence, Inc., a local nonprofit organization that works with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is one of the hosts and organizers of Fiesta Especial.
Melanie Cawthon, outreach and development vice president for RMI, said RMI provides residential, day and vocational programming as well as educational outreach programs targeting children and adults with disabilities.
Fiesta Especial became an official Fiesta event in 2006, but RMI assumed responsibility for it in 2012. Since then, RMI added a royal court, a celebration day with a parade and 5K, she said.
Cawthon said the court’s hierarchy is determined by the amount of funds the participants raise. Part of the funds are donated to programs that support adults and children with disabilities, and the other part stays with Fiesta Especial to underwrite the event for the next year.
“Their positions are determined by how much they raise. They do campaigning to raise funds to serve on the court,” she said.
Castro said his friend, Diana Neal, approached him about Fiesta Especial. She asked him to run with her for the court. He has known Neal since he was 4, and together they raised more than $12,000.
Castro said Gordon Hartman, founder of Morgan’s Wonderland, donated $1,000 to his cause, organized fundraisers at Chick-fil-A and also created a Go Fund Me account.
Castro raised $1,467, and he and Neal selected Kinetic Kids as the benefiting charity. Castro said they chose Kinetic Kids because they were involved with this group since they were kids
Kinetic Kids provides health, recreational and educational services for special-needs children and their families.
Castro said through Kinetic Kids, he has become more confident in his physical abilities. He enjoys basketball, tennis and bowling.
In high school, Castro participated in Special Olympics and competed in track and field, basketball, bowling and tennis.
Castro said he has had a great college experience so far. The transition from high school to college was rough at first, but since he is a social person, he has adjusted well, he said.
He said he wants to be a steward for change, and his involvement with various organizations allows him to do this. Castro said his disability does not hold him back.
Castro plans on transferring to Texas A&M-San Antonio or College Station after he graduates from NVC. He wants to pursue a career in politics in San Antonio as an advocate for special-needs individuals and people of his generation. “I want to give back to the community,” he said.
He plans on doing this by creating voting awareness.“It’s sad that our voter turnout has been so low the last few years, and I want people to know that their vote does count,” he said.
For more information about Fiesta Especial, visit www.fiestaespecial.com.