This column is part of a series highlighting 2014 Ball High graduates who showcased Tor spirit at its finest, whether through academics, athletics or overcoming adversity.
Marco Ponce Espinal embarked on his high school career like any other student. He played football, was a member of Ball Preparatory Academy, focusing his studies on science, technology, engineering and math, and he enjoyed singing in the choir.
His life changed forever following a devastating car accident Oct. 9, 2010, that left him tetraplegic, an injury resulting in the partial or total loss of use of all limbs and torso while on a family trip to San Antonio. He spent the next two and a half months recovering and rehabilitating in hospitals. When he returned to school, he was confined to a motorized wheelchair with limited use of his upper body.
“When I woke up from the accident, all I can remember is being in the truck unable to move my body,” he said. “That was beyond scary and beyond anything I thought I could imagine happening to me. It was scary because I was unable to do anything for myself.”
Simply attending high school was a daily challenge for Ponce Espinal. During the next four years, he had to miss large amounts of class because of physical therapy sessions and other health-related appointments and ailments. A broken motorized chair meant missing a week or two of school.
“It was difficult because I felt like I wasn’t getting as much information as I needed,” he said. “If I was there all the time, I would be getting 100 percent of the work, but if they just handed me the work, I would have to learn it myself. In a way it forced me to be independent and work to understand the lessons.”
His disability didn’t prevent him from achieving good grades and pursuing his interests. Among a multitude of As and Bs, he achieved the highest score possible in his Advanced Placement Spanish class and earned top honors at UIL Solo and Ensemble contest for choir. His love of singing even drove him to try out for the hugely popular TV shows “The Voice” and “X-Factor.”
He cites his continued love of choir and his instructional aide, Gail Polite, as the two things that got him through high school.
“Ms. Polite called when I wasn’t at school. She made sure my work was done. She went around and got my work when I needed it,” Ponce Espinal said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better friend, a better assistant and a better person to work with me. She really cares about her students.”
Life had thrown him a major curveball, but that wouldn’t let him get in the way of accomplishing his ultimate goal. He earned a Moody and LULAC scholarship en route to crossing the commencement stage at Moody Gardens on June 7. He will attend Galveston College in the fall and hopes to attend University of Houston after two years, majoring in vocal performance.
“At the end of the day, it was my decision to move past it,” Ponce Espinal said of the accident. “I was going to have to do the things I needed to do. If I didn’t do them, then I wasn’t going to graduate.”