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Yes Way, Jose: Bowie H.S. Student Has Special Needs, Special Story
Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 09:47 PM CDT
There is a garden at Bowie High School that is dedicated to the fallen members of the Bulldog family. 19-year old Jose Velasco, Jr. deserves credit for keeping the flowers, and thus the memories, alive. But this plot is not the only story for which Jose will be remembered.
At the age of three, Velasco, Jr. was diagnosed with PPD-NOS, a form of Autism. But the challenges associated with his condition did not keep him from joining the Bowie High wrestling team.
"My four years is like a process of trial and error," admitted Jose.
Early on, it was almost all error.
"It was really painful to watch," said Deya Velasco, Jose's mother.
Jose lost every single match as a freshman. His parents and coaches thought he might be better off as the team's student-manager, rather than a competitor. In response to that proposal, Jose registered his first take down.
"I still remember it vividly," said Jose Velasco, Sr. "He said, 'you guys don't get it. I want to be a wrestler."
Velasco never missed a practice. Never made an excuse. Never was treated differently than his teammates.
"He actually puts in more work than most guys here," said Bowie High School head wrestling coach Spike Fogle.
As a sophomore, Jose finally won a match.
"It felt like I was invincible," exclaimed Jose, Jr.
"He just came and hugged his dad who was right there," said Coach Fogle.
"It was incredibly special," admitted Jose, Sr. "You see somebody being committed to something and staying true. In the end, he deserves the credit. It was only him and the mat."
That was one of just two victories that year. The following season, Jose won his first medal. This year, as a senior - albeit on the JV, Velasco placed third in the district meet.
"I especially want to thank Coach Fogle, and all of my coaches, for helping in my wrestling career," said Jose, Jr.
"He may thank me, but I thank him," shared Fogle. "I am extremely honored to have met Jose Velasco, let alone coach him."
But Jose's influence at Bowie extends well beyond the mat. Upon noticing that the school's memorial garden was wilting, Velasco chose to install a rainwater harvesting system as his Eagle Scout project.
"When he gets motivated to do something, it amazes me how dedicated he can be," said Deya.
Thanks to help from his scout troop, AISD and the City of Austin, Jose achieved his goal.
"I think he's a very courageous person with a big heart," said Jose, Sr.
"My parents say I have a learning disability, but to me it's no road block," said Jose, Jr.
Velasco cemented his legacy by providing a water source for a withering garden. But watching him bloom, despite special needs, has been the most rewarding growth at Bowie High.