EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Loretto Academy is known as a school that cares for its students the moment they step foot on its campus. Stella Alcocer, a girl born with spina bifida, is no different.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, spina bifida is a medical condition where a baby’s spinal column doesn’t form properly, leaving a section of the spinal cord and spinal nerves exposed in the back.
With Stella being Tanya Alcocer’s first child, the diagnosis did not deter her excitement from becoming a new mom.
“I think as a new parent you have this image of what parenthood is going to be like when you have your first baby, so I wasn’t any less excited. I just knew that we were going to have to be prepared for when Stella got here,” Tanya Alcocer said.
Growing up, Stella learned to face the world and its challenges head-on, thanks to her family. As she got older, she learned to navigate the world on her own terms.
“It’s kind of all about the mindset that you have. If you think something is hard, then it’s going to be hard. But if you think something is easy, then you get through it very fast,” Stella said.
When it was time to enroll Stella in school, Tanya Alcocer and her husband wanted a faith-based education for their daughter. They decided to enroll her at Loretto Academy Elementary despite knowing the school does not have enough wheelchair access.
Working alongside Loretto Elementary Principal Norma Lopez, Stella’s family was able to accommodate her.
“We’ve tried to make as many accommodations for her, either a portable ramp or even having mom available to take her to the high school when she needs to go to music,” Lopez said.
In the classroom, her current teacher Liza Harvey is also there to make sure Stella is comfortable in her class, not just with the other students, but with how much space she needs to have.
“I’m there making sure there’s enough room for her to get around, you know, the desk area to get to her desk and things like that,” Harvey said.
Now in 5th grade, Stella is ending her time at Loretto Elementary and will soon transition to Loretto Middle School. Loretto Middle currently resides on the third floor of the historic main building.
Currently, there is only one elevator at El Convento that would allow Stella to get to her classes. Loretto Academy is hosting a fundraiser to build an elevator that would not only benefit Stella but all students who would need of it.
“It would go from the basement all the way to the third floor. That would allow for any student not just Stella but any student needing some sort of accommodation to be able to be dropped off and have an easy access to get to any part of the building,” said Norma Lopez, Loretto Elementary Principal
For now Middle School Principal MaryAnn Olivas is working with current staff to make sure Stella transitions easily to their part of the school.
“Because this building is so old, we have to make accommodations that probably other buildings don’t have to but we do have the people and the teamwork and the employees that are going to do everything it takes to make sure our students get the education they need,” Olivas said.
Even though people born with spina bifida are able to live fulfilling lives, Tanya Alcocer is still in awe of how far Stella has come in spite of the challenges.
“I feel like it’s a blink of the eye. I remember just coming into the school and meeting Clarissa when she was 3 and never in my wildest dreams did I think I would already be sitting with her going to middle school so time flies,” Tanya Alcocer said.
With her whole future in front of her, Stella said she just wants to be someone everyone can be proud of.
“I do hope that I’m kind when I grow up and I’m a girl that gets along with people easily and I hope that my mom has told me to be.”
Loretto Academy is asking for donations for their elevator project. If you would like to donate you can follow the link here.
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