Lowell — When Ezequiel “Q” Gonzalez speaks, people listen.
While his rich baritone voice catches their ears, it’s the substance of what he says that keeps them attentive and learning.
Consider this perspective from the Lowell High School junior on what it’s like to have spinal muscular atrophy Type 2, a genetic neuromuscular disorder that affects the nerve cells. He uses a wheelchair.
“A misconception a lot of people have about living with a disability is that you, yourself, are disabled; but people are people, first and always,” he said.
“No one is disabled if the system that they live in allows for them to be fully functioning members of society. If there were ramps at every store I would be less disabled in that sense; if there were accommodations for people with hearing disabilities they would be less disabled in that sense. …
When people say I overcome these disadvantages, they are not innate disadvantages within me, they are disadvantages placed on me by the world.”
‘I get a lot of meaning in my life when I’m making someone else’s life marginally better.’— Lowell High School junior Ezequiel “Q” Gonzalez
An Advocate & Inspiration for Many
Q is already demonstrating his passion for advocating for people with disabilities and all minorities, and he is interested in doing so on a bigger scale. According to those who know him well at LHS, he is constantly using his voice to lift up others, address needs and even entertain.
Emma Organek, Q’s paraeducator, said she has learned many things from spending her days with Q.
“The most important thing is that I am constantly learning, every day,” she said. “I didn’t think that coming to work with him would be such an educational experience. … I think he’s the coolest kid.”
As part of the school’s Diversity Council, Q reads to elementary students, and has made heartwarming connections. He said he recently met a young student who also has a disability during a visit to Cherry Creek Elementary School. The boy requested that he be paired up with Q, and Q was happy for that chance.
“It almost made me cry,” he said. “I know how he feels to not (often) see people with a disability. … I am glad I can be that person for him.”
It’s moments like that when Q realizes the impact he can have by showing what he’s capable of.
“I always had the idea of ‘I can do as much as I hope to be doing,’ but I’ve never really explored it as much as I am now. I never did as much as I am now, because I always had the fear that I can’t.”
As a member of Model United Nations, at LHS, he’s learning about how to be involved with world affairs at a legislative level. Model UN simulates how the UN operates, with students representing their countries as ambassadors. It fits in with Q’s goal to pursue a degree in history then go to law school and become a public defender.
“I often like to educate myself on what is going on in the world and what also is happening domestically,” Q said. “I think Model UN is a way to really see how the workings of the UN can really change how the general public perceives political events, but also how we can make policy to change domestic and foreign events.”
He also looks forward to taking the stage for a tale as old as time as narrator of the school musical, “Beauty and the Beast,” March 1, 2, 3, 8 and 9 in the Lowell High School auditorium.
“A lot of it is practicing diction and clearness,” he explained. “Every phrase is timed to the music, so I’m doing a lot of work with pronunciation and getting the thought out in a theatrical but calm way.”
Q will join the chorus in the show as well; he is also a member of the Michigan School Vocal Music Association Honors Choir, for which he performs with other schools and competes at the regional level.
“I really do love musical theater. I just really enjoy being part of a group production to let the audience escape whatever it is they are going through to see a show that wows them — something beyond reality. … It’s such a beautiful thing to be a part of.”
‘No one is disabled if the system that they live in allows for them to be fully functioning members of society.’— Lowell High School junior Ezequiel “Q” Gonzalez
He Shows that He Can
Amanita Fahrni, teacher/consultant in the Special Education Department, said it may be a cliche to say you walk away a better person after meeting Q, but it is simply the truth.
“When you meet Q and you get to be a part of his life you really do leave a better person,” she said. “Q is an inspiration to everyone he is around because he educates others, and he does it in a manner that people listen.
“They don’t find that he’s judging them or preaching. He has a way about him that people listen to and they watch,” added Fahrni, who is also the theater director.
“I think it’s amazing what he will set his mind to do and do. He educates without words. We have this 700-seat theater, and to be able to represent up there in the areas he is so passionate about and show that he can is so amazing.”
Through the Diversity Council, Q also has plans to volunteer at food pantries and to help people who are homeless. He sees giving back as a way to improve others’ lives.
“I get a lot of meaning in my life when I’m making someone else’s life marginally better,” he said. “I think you can do that in a myriad of ways, but I think the most important way is through education and improving material conditions for people, so giving them food and a better place to stay.
“The motivation itself is to, overall, help people, and that makes me feel better about the world I would like to live in.”