Student graduates with the help of a robot

Read the original story on Univision here.

LOS ANGELES, Calif – Christopher Leon attended his graduation with pneumonia and on medication, ignoring the recommendations of the doctors told him that morning that he would not be discharged to attend the ceremony. He was willing to face the consequences, whatever they were.

Shortly after birth, the young Hispanic, who is now 22 years old, was predicted that he would not get to celebrate its second anniversary. He had spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a degenerative genetic disease that would leave practically immobile. His dad, Salvadoran Julio León, 46, told Univision News in Los Angeles that Christopher had managed to defy all medical logic to date, had even had to be emergency resuscitated, so pneumonia was not going to spoil the day for his son.

The student changed his clothes at the hospital into his black cap and gown, and traveled in a hurry to his school, Verdugo Hills High School in Tujunga, where his companions were waiting to parade. He arrived late but was greeted with a standing ovation as his father says proudly.

“He was excited. Everyone started chanting his name, “said Julio Leon. Christopher had time to pose for pictures and march with the band before returning to Kaiser Permanente hospital where he remains admitted, “although he is stable,” said Julio. He hopes to return home soon.

Christopher was the first student of Los Angeles (LAUSD) Unified School District high school graduation after taking classes through a robot, which is physically in the classroom and he controls from home.

VGO robot

It was the “test pilot” with which he started the program assisted education LAUSD now serving 8 more students, said technology coordinator Kari Tapie, Department Related Services.

“If not for that, Chris could not have finished until age 30,” said Julio. Until he received his robot -Made by the company VGo Communications- the young man had been schooled at home supported by the visit of LAUSD teachers.

In the spring of 2014 he began for the first time at the controls of his VGo that allowed him to experience the world differently. Chris was connected to the machine from his computer and moved around the campus, going to the cafeteria and moving around the room, where he held his place as a student.

The robot has a video screen, microphone and speakers. Christopher, who is a shy guy, preferred not to show his face on the monitor, but he showed written messages or drawings, his great passion.

“When the robot went down the hall the other comrades saluted him, ‘Hey, Chris!'” Tapie said. That machine, said his father, allowed him to establish friendships with other students.

“I had a lot of interaction with friends. They walked joking with him. Now is concerned that that’s going to change, “said Dad. Robots are a service of LAUSD, so Christopher will not have one when he starts college.

One of his friends, however, has launched a campaign to raise funds GoFundMe to acquire one of those machines that cost about $8,000, plus a monthly cost of just under $ 200 in maintenance and internet. The effort to bring the money has not been very successful so far, but believes Tapie find a formula to help the young in order to proceed with their education and social life.

“He wants to become more independent. Attend classes, “said the father.

A family of superheroes

Despite the disease, Christopher has proven to be a willing and optimistic young man who “wake up happy and singing” and aspires to become a video game designer and wants to continue his training after Santa Monica College or Art Institute in Los Angeles.

He has channeled his passion for the stories of Marvel superheroes and Japanese manga through the drawing. With the movement of two fingers on a touch screen playing their favorite characters like Spider-Man or any other work of the famous cartoonist Stan Lee, whom he met in person and it is his inspiration.

From the hospital bed, weakened by pneumonia, Christopher looks at his parents with the frustration of not being able to continue creating. Me0dication and drugs have numbed his hands. His parents urge him to have patience.

“He is the light for us, the superhero,” said Julio, a security employee working at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), while his wife, Brenda Palma, 50, is dedicated full time to take care of Christopher. “She’s another superhero,” he said. He hopes the story of his son gives hope to other families.

Christopher Leon has been nominated along with 21 other students by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) for his accomplishments as a student and will be honored at a gala to be held next November in San Diego.