​Going to College

Posted by Zack Collie in Life After Paralysis on July 10, 2020 # Lifestyle

By Zack Collie

I never thought I would go to college. I was not an academic student and didn’t think I was smart enough. I planned on using my physical strength to my advantage for work after high school. As a freshman, I was five feet nine inches tall and weighed 170 pounds. I was solid muscle and enjoyed extreme activities. However, after my accident I could no longer use my strength to my advantage. After my accident, I lost function in all four of my limbs and was diagnosed as a quadriplegic. I had to change my future plans and if I wanted to have a career for myself and make money. I had to start using my brain to do it.Zach Collie and Sedona graduation day

I owe all the credit to my mom for helping make college happen for me. She found the closest university, which was Cal State University, Fullerton, CA. She called them asking if it was possible for a quadriplegic to go to college. It was only a few years into my injury and we were still figuring things out. My mom called the school and was transferred to a department called Disability Student Services (DSS). She talked to someone about my situation and after a long conversation learned that it was absolutely possible for a quadriplegic to go to college. DSS helped me take all of my quizzes and exams with a scribe, who helped me fill in all of my answers. They also helped me have a notetaker in all of my classes every semester. One person would volunteer in each of my classes and the person who helped me was given priority registration the following semester as a thank you. Because of DSS and the assistance they provided made it possible to get a college degree.

The first two years in college I was undeclared. I never thought I would go to college so I had no idea what I wanted to major in. After almost finishing all of my general education classes the school told me I had to declare a major. The first major I tried was criminal justice. I have always been interested in that field but didn’t know what I could do with that degree because of my disability. I took intro to criminal justice and really liked it, but didn’t feel like it was what I wanted to major in. The next major I tried was psychology. I have always been interested in learning about the minds of people and why they do the things they do. I really enjoyed my psychology classes but did not enjoy the research part of it. I decided that research wasn’t for me and I could check psychology off my list as a possible major. The last major I tried and the one I ended up getting a degree in was called human services. My counselor told me about it and I had never heard about it before. I took intro to that major and feel in love with it. Human Services is described as meeting human needs, focusing on prevent problems, and improving overall quality of life for individuals. I knew whatever I majored in I wanted to help others and make a difference in their life. Human Services was the major I was looking for.

It took me five years to finish my bachelors. I went part time because of my limited hand function. Writing papers and finishing assignments took me longer than the average student. It wasn’t always easy but I never gave up and kept moving forward. I learned and grew so much in my undergrad studies. I am happy I ended up going to college and continuing my education. I was the first person in my family to go to college and have a four-year degree.

“It doesn’t matter how fast you go as long as you continue moving forward”

My name is Zack Collie and I am a c-4 quadriplegic. On May 31, 2010 I broke my neck diving into a wave at the beach and hitting a sandbar headfirst. I was 15 years old. Since breaking my neck, I have finished high school, graduated from college, be the first person in my family to go to grad school, got engaged, moved out, and started driving. Never in my life would I have guessed I would be where I am today. I have accomplished more than I ever thought I was capable of. I look forward to sharing my experiences and some of the things I have learned over these past 10 years.

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.