Purdue Calumet Senior Overcomes Odds to Graduate

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May 27, 2014 — As Matt Wesley sees it, he had two choices: “I could sit home and sulk, or I could be out there experiencing the world.”

He has chosen the latter.

In fact, earlier this month, the 24-year-old, St. John resident graduated from Purdue University Calumet, where he was an honor student who studied political science and minored in history and human resources. He plans to continue his education this fall, having been admitted at the University of Notre Dame Law School.

Wesley also is a quadriplegic.

While a senior at Lake Central High School and a member of the school’s football team, he was injured during a practice session in 2007.

His life having changed literally in an instant, Wesley has been determined to make the most of it.
He enrolled at Purdue Calumet as a part-time attending student during the 2009 spring term. The following semester he increased his course load to that of a full time student —and became an accomplished one, at that.

He qualified for entry into Purdue Calumet’s Honors Program and the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society.
“Originally, I had planned to go to pharmacy school, but I had to relearn in new ways and adapt,” he said, citing, as an example, his use of voice-activated technology to write papers.

Yet he has remained unwaveringly upbeat.

Also unwavering about him has been the smile on his face, the motorized wheelchair he used to tool around campus, the companionship he enjoys with his service dog, Magnum, and the growing list of individuals he has impressed with his attitude and outlook on life.

“His Honors Program peers cited him as an inspiration,” Honors Program Director and Professor John Rowan said. “Last spring, he helped organize the service learning project for the Honors capstone course, which was to benefit organizations that train service dogs. His efforts helped generate donations, which will enable others to benefit greatly from owning a service dog. Truly, Matt will go on to accomplish anything he sets his mind to do.”

Associate Professor of English Zenobia Mistri, who taught Wesley in three classes, calls him “smart, focused and a wonderful individual who has a great sense of humor.”

Quick to return the favor, Wesley said, “I’ve had some really outstanding professors who have inspired me to pursue different things.”

As for his decision to enter law school in preparation to become a practitioner of public interest law, Wesley said, “I am intrigued by the possibility of using the law to help others.”

He gained firsthand experience of the need for such legal experts when his initial effort to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) was thwarted because his requested test-taking accommodations were denied.

Subsequently, a Chicago disability advocacy group got involved, he passed the LSAT, and the next chapter in his motivating life story is ready to begin.

“Matt Wesley is an inspiration to anyone who is lucky enough to cross his path,” his high school football coach, Bill Melby, said. “He was a winner when I first met him, a winner when I coached him, and he will be a winner in everything that he does.”

Source: Purdue University Calumet

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