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Resilient student remains focused

Despite limitations, Dang lives peacefully

By Lissette Argenal, staff writer
On November 5, 2012

  • Although design major Tony Dang was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, he has achieved academic excellence obtaining a 4.0 GPA during the spring 2012 semester. Lissette Argenal / The Advocate

Design major Tony Dang's smile reflects the resilience of the human spirit.
"My family is my strength," Dang said through the augmentative communication device attached on his wheelchair.
At 3 months old, Dang underwent surgery and although the surgery was successful, it left him with many complications and limitations. Dang was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.
Despite the fact Dang has been disabled his whole life, not being able to walk or talk and having to overcome the boundaries of a wheelchair, his determination has been evident throughout his life.
"Tony is special to us and our family. He's a very smart boy," Dang's mother Debbie Chau said.
Since the third grade, Dang formed part of the city of Berkeley Bay Cruisers power soccer team program until 2007.  
He has won many championships throughout his years of participation, and even obtained third place in 2007 in the state of Indiana.
Dang graduated from Richmond High School and obtained a 4.0 GPA last spring semester at Contra Costa College.
Art department Chairperson John Diestler said that Dang sees the world as a great place, one in which he wants to be involved.
"He has a joy of learning because he has a joy of living," Diestler said. "Tony might have some limitations, but don't we all. The difference is Tony knows his limitations and works around (them)."
Dang said that Diestler is nice for believing in him.
Dang's kind and gentle presence is felt by everyone who knows him. Longtime friend of Dang and his sister Jenny, Brandy Khamsouvong, said a person cannot help but feel joy when he or she is around him.
"He is like a brother to me. He is very close to his sister Jenny. He is a smart, outgoing person. He is active and likes to smile. Every time I see him he smiles," Khamsouvong said.
Chau said she is proud of the young man her son has become.
She has made sure that throughout his life he does not feel any different from anyone else and most importantly experiences his true potential in life.
Chau made sure Dang attended preschool, kindergarten, elementary, junior high school and high school in the public school system.
"Because he is smart, he understands, and when we, my husband and I, get old in the future he will be able to take care of himself and be independent. I know he can do it because he is very smart. That's why I try to do everything I can possibly do for him," Chau said.
Dang shared his dream of one day being able to become independent and write music.
"I want to be rich and independent. I want to work hard and create beats," Dang said.
Dang has written a song titled "Freestyle" and said he hopes people don't underestimate people who appear different than them.
"Don't think disabled people aren't smart, because they are very smart," he said.


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