by Nina Udomsak
Many have seen her around campus, rolling through the halls, opening doors, and essentially managing on her own with apparent ease. But behind her firm, confident, and uninhibited character, senior Angel Kantala deals with not only her confinement to a wheelchair, but struggles among her health, school, and family life.
“During the middle of last year, I had to deal with the loss of my father,” she said. “I was in and out of school, and it really affected my attitude and mood.”
Her most difficult challenge, however, is an obstacle she has known her whole life.
“I was born with spina bifida. Basically, two weeks into gestation of my mom’s pregnancy, my spine opened and never closed,” she explained. “Since I was born I’ve had twenty-six operations on different things. I’ve had three on my spine, two on my foot, five on my head, and a couple on my stomach. My last surgery was eight years ago.”
While she is now coping with the loss of her father, Kantala still feels the negative effects from her peers’ perceptions of her.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been touchy about it, because I’m more aware of how people perceive me,” said Kantala. “There are people who see me outside the wheelchair, but there are also people who see me only as who I physically am. And it’s those people who bother me.”
From the young and innocent kids who see her and naively wonder why she cannot walk, to the older more immature teens who bluntly ask her about what is wrong with her legs, Kantala has heard many comments about her disability.
“I turned around and said, ‘That was rude,’” said Kantala about one particular comment.
“She has a good attitude despite her differences. I’ve seen her through a lot of hard times in her life,” said RSP teacher Nick Wilson. “She’s had a lot of adversity. It’s something she’s always had to address, and she has learned to address it well.”
Aside from the harsh judgments of others, Kantala has also stressed over her education.
“There have been times when I even doubted I would make it to high school,” she said. “I was told that I couldn’t go to school in sixth grade because of my disability, and in seventh grade I got very sick and was out of school; I have hydrocephalus, and my shunt had broken in two and was leaking brain fluid.”
Nevertheless, Kantala triumphed over all her hindrances and will graduate with her class. She will be attending Santa Rosa Junior College.
“I’m going to miss our card games, and her sense of humor,” said Wilson.
“I feel accomplished, excited, and really nervous. I’ve gone to school for 14 years, and moving from high school to the adult world is beyond belief. I’m looking forward to graduation,” said Kantala
Along with her ambition to continue her education, Kantala also has her future goals set.
“I want to become a school librarian. I hope I can take library tech for a two year degree and see where it takes me,” she said. “I have worked as a T.A at Kenilworth and here at Casa. I love reading and helping people, and seeing what’s new, and discovering new outlooks.”