Sylvia Colt-Lacayo is 18, fresh-faced and hopeful, as she beams confidence from her power wheelchair. Her long dark hair is soft and carefully tended, and her wide brown eyes are bright. A degenerative neuromuscular disease, similar to muscular dystrophy, has left her with weak, underdeveloped muscles throughout her body, and her legs are unable to support any weight. Each time she needs to get in or out of her wheelchair — to leave bed in the morning, use the bathroom, take a shower, change clothes — she needs assistance.
Throughout her young life, Sylvia has been told her disability didn’t need to hold her back. And she took those words to heart. She graduated near the top of her high school class in Oakland with a 4.25 GPA. She was co-captain of the mock trial team at school, served on the youth advisory board of the local children’s hospital, interned in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office and is a budding filmmaker. In April, Sylvia learned she had been admitted to Stanford University with a full scholarship for tuition, room and board.