People of Braven

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guy in glasses sitting on the steps of a university

My name is Andrew Arredondo and I was born in Santa Clara, California in 1982. When I was very young, I began exhibiting behaviors that concerned my parents. I was taken to the doctors where they confirmed my diagnosis: autism.

Since there was very little information on how to treat autism during the 1980s, medical professionals told my family not to expect much of me. They said that I wouldn’t lead a functional life, let alone attain higher education. Fortunately, I had a family who didn’t listen and instead sought out additional resources.

Due to my disability, I began receiving special education services from my local district. From Pre-K to second grade, I attended schools for individuals with disabilities, and around second grade, I began receiving additional support in academics and social skills.

In junior high, I was eligible to attend regular classes with my peers and receive additional academic support from the resource teachers. When I began 9th grade, I had college on my mind and started on a college preparatory track. It was during those years that I was bullied, not only because of my disability but also because of my ethnicity.

I didn’t want my family to know how the racial slurs affected me and made me feel weak and vulnerable. I didn’t want them to view me differently. I decided to keep those feelings inside and persevere. After high school, I attended San José City College, completed my requirements, and in the fall of 2003, I transferred to San José State University to major in Communication Studies. After 10 years, all while maintaining a 3.0 GPA, I finally graduated with my bachelor’s degree.

Once I graduated, I hit the ground running. I visited every employment agency, attended every workshop, and participated in every job interview — in 2013, I finally found the position I wanted. I became an intern for Junior Achievement for Northern California and have been with them ever since. That same year, I returned to San José State University as a master’s student studying Education.

In 2018, after graduating with my first master’s degree, I was accepted into the Communication Studies program to pursue my second master’s. No matter what the medical professionals said, I’ve always exceeded expectations. They believed my disability would prevent me from leading a normal life, let alone graduate from college.

Well, here I am: employed, a Braven Fellow, and working on my second master’s degree.

 

This interview was conducted by Matthew Seah, Operations Intern at Braven – SJSU