Overcoming obstacles, student excels in academics and athletics


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WTHR) - He's one of the top students at Indiana School for the Blind, in the running for valedictorian and hoping to attend IU's Kelley School of Business.

"I want to go into business marketing or finance," said Chris Avila. "I want to become a personal investor and stop working in my mid-30s...but that's sort of unrealistic."

Maybe. But Chris Avila is used to overcoming obstacles, especially the deeply painful and deeply personal ones, something he shared in his essay.

"(I said) I felt like an embarrassment to my family for years," Avila said.

When he was just five years old, a car plowed into Chris and dragged him. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, lost his vision and endured countless surgeries.

"I just had a bunch of scars and every time we would go places people would stare and my parents would always say something," said Avila. "I don't know, I just felt it."

He says he would alternate between anger and hopelessness. As a freshman, he used a class assignment to vent his rage. He wrote a poem directed at the person who hit him.

"I blame you, I'm a product of what you did on August 28, 2004. I hate you, ten-and-a-half years later, I hate you. There's no forgiveness. You're just one person who single-handedly crushed me easily and changed the way I would go on to live."

With help from his family, teachers and mentors, though, Chris began to channel his anger elsewhere. He joined the swim team and began to wrestle, discovering he wasn't just a gifted student, but also a gifted athlete.

"I just can't stand self-pity, I can't stand it in myself, so I try my hardest not to do it," Avila said.

"I think his biggest quality is his personality, he's down to earth, he tells it like it is," said Principal Jay Wilson. He says Chris gets along with everyone and because of his experiences, has become a strong mentor.

"He's honest, he says when he lost his vision and, even now, it does stink, but he's willing to work hard and to fight through those issues and succeed," Wilson said.

That's something Chris is determined to keep doing as he finishes up the semester here and prepares for the next chapter.