​Life After Graduation

Posted by Zack Collie in Life After Paralysis on February 13, 2023 # Lifestyle

Zack CollieAt the end of last year, in the fall of 2022, I officially completed my master’s degree. I received my master’s in counseling with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy. This is an accomplishment I never planned on achieving. Before I broke my neck, I never planned on continuing my education beyond high school. I was not an academic student growing up and didn’t put much effort into my education. My mindset was as long as I passed, that was good enough for me. However, after losing my physical abilities, I knew I had to make a change and start using my brain if I wanted to create a future for myself.

After completing high school, I applied to Cal State University, Fullerton, which was the closest 4-year university near me. I received my Bachelor of Science in Human Services in 2018. Majoring in Human Services gave me the idea of pursuing a master's in counseling. After my injury, I knew I wanted to give back and help others, but I didn't know how to do that confined to a wheelchair. One semester, I took a summer class that changed my life and put me on the path I'm on now. I realized the way I could help others and have a positive impact on people's lives is through counseling.

After finishing my bachelor's, I found out that my school had a prestigious master's program for counseling. I felt led to apply to this program but was nervous because it was a competitive program to join. The program received around 400 applications, and they narrowed it down to 65 new students. I threw all my eggs in one basket and sent my application to the program. Thankfully, I was accepted and now have a master’s degree. Looking back, I am so grateful to be where I am today. I have accomplished so much these past 12 years. I have grown and matured into a person I love. Despite the dependence and frustrations of a spinal cord injury, if I had not broken my neck, I would not have gotten a bachelor's or master's degree. In a way, my injury has given my life purpose and meaning.

I would not be the person I am today if I had not gone through all these trials and tribulations these past 12 years. It is never fun going through hard times, but the truth is hard times make us stronger. I am now at a point in my life where I am starting a new chapter. I have been in school for nine years straight since finishing high school. I am excited and nervous about starting this new chapter. My next step is to apply for my associate number so I can start getting hours toward licensure and becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist. It is wild because this is a career I never thought I would do, but now I can't imagine myself doing anything else. My life is full of abundance and meaning. I broke my neck and became paralyzed, but it never broke me. I believe being a disabled therapist will only enhance my ability to impact others. Instead of viewing my disability as a negative. I changed my perspective and thought of how I could use my situation to inspire those who need inspiration.

My goal is eventually to become a licensed therapist and work with people with disabilities. My message is that there is still life to live after sustaining a spinal injury. You can still be happy and prosperous. Never give up. Here are three inspirational words I heard from a high school teacher that has never left my mind. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

Zack Collie is living with quadriplegia and was paralyzed in 2010 diving under a wave at Newport Beach breaking his C-4 vertebrae. Zack started a YouTube channel to spread awareness about spinal cord injuries and his life living as one. His mother, Amber Collie, is also a regular blogger for the Reeve Foundation.

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.