College Spotlight: Kayvan Zahiri

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on August 22, 2022 # Accessible College

KayvanWhen he was 9-years old, Kayvan Zahiri lost the ability to walk and breathe on his own after having a tumor removed from his spine. The surgery changed the young boy’s life but did not prevent him from chasing his academic dreams.

Less than a decade later, Zahiri had earned a perfect 4.0, becoming the co-valedictorian of his high school class and one of six graduating seniors in the San Francisco Unified School District to receive the Superintendent’s 21st Century Award. He recently finished his first year at the University of San Francisco (USF), where he has learned to juggle long days on campus alongside the joys of new intellectual challenges.

“I wasn’t really sure what to expect, and it was a little overwhelming at the start, but I’m enjoying it so far,” he says.

Students with disabilities account for roughly 19% of the college population across the United States. In 2020, the National Paralysis Resource Center launched its College Transition Program to provide free consultations to students with paralysis as they pursue higher education and prepare for future careers. Though they may have unique considerations alongside class selection—including accessibility and accommodation requirements–there is no reason these students cannot thrive at college.

As he prepared to transition to USF as a commuter student, Zahiri worked with Reeve Foundation partner organization Accessible College to connect with student disability services and secure his necessary accommodations, including accessible classrooms, using a computer for all his work, and having a nurse with him on campus.

The supportive process helped Zahiri focus on adjusting to the day-to-day of college life. His father drops him off and picks him up each day, but Zahiri spends his days moving throughout campus like any every other student. After finishing high school remotely because of the pandemic, the in-person classes at USF have allowed him to get to know professors and more easily collaborate with other students.

Zahiri has also built up his stamina for the long days on campus, happily heading to a favorite spot in the library between classes to study and recharge.

The year was a good one, and Zahiri is looking forward to what comes next, including declaring a major and building a path toward a career. Like many young students, he arrived with an idea of what he wanted to study but found his attention pulled by a new interest – in Zahiri’s case, his early curiosity about psychology has given way to computer science.

“I enjoy doing math and I like working with computers, so those two things go hand in hand,” he says. “The main hope and expectation for my education was setting up the future after college. The real challenge was finding what major I wanted to do, and now I’ve found it. That was the biggest question mark, so I’d say it has gone pretty well.”

For more information about the College Transition Program, or to receive “Navigating and Transitioning to College with Paralysis," a comprehensive guide to help young adults with mobility impairments plan for college written by Tulkin, please contact the NPRC Information Specialist team at www.ChristopherReeve.org/Ask or call 800-539-7309.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.