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Outstanding Grads of the Class of 2014: Meet Herman Roque

21 May 2014

Herman Rogue

Meet Herman Roque, an outstanding member of the Class of 2014.

Herman is completing the two-year Community Social Services Program this spring at Merritt College. He earned a 3.47 GPA and received the Strong Start Award last spring.

In addition, Herman, pictured with his counselor, Mary Rose Ciddio, M.A., received the Career & Technical Education and the Hardship/Challenge scholarships on Wednesday, May 14. He has also been recently inducted into Phi Theta Kappa and he plans to continue on to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with a Registered Addiction Specialist credential, ultimately becoming a substance abuse counselor.

It is difficult to sum up Herman’s outstanding story, but he tells it well in the essay he wrote, below, which earned him his 2014 scholarships.

Congratulations Herman!


The Man I Wan To Be

My name is Herman Roque Jr. I am a 46 year old 4th semester student in the Community Social Services program. I am also a husband, father and grandfather. My story is filled with regret, tragedy, and ultimately, triumph.

For over two decades I endured the torture of addiction. I was what society calls a functioning addict, but in actuality, it was anything but functioning. I thought by maintaining a job that everything was fine; no one would notice. As it turned out, most everyone knew. I thought by participating in my son’s little league, along with all the other things associated with normal family life, everything was great. But behind that façade my life was in turmoil. I was not being the man I wanted to be.

One day in October 2006, I was suffering from an intense backache, so I went to the Emergency Room. One doctor attributed it to a muscle pull, but another doctor thought it could be something else; he wanted to do more extensive testing. I accepted the opinion of the first doctor and went home. Three days later the pain worsened, so I decided to return to the E.R. Before I went I wanted to take a shower. It was then that I noticed the weakness in my legs-so weak that I had to shower sitting at the edge of the tub. I managed to get out of the shower, but I had to hold on to the walls to keep from falling. When I reached the foot of my bed, I collapsed. The next thing I remembered was a doctor hovering over me apologizing. He said, “I’m sorry to beat on you, but it was to save your life”. When I tried to respond, I realized I could not speak. The reason for this was I had a tracheotomy. To compound the situation, I also had respiratory failure, kidney failure, and was paralyzed from the neck down. I was only able to breathe with the help of a ventilator. I was not exactly sure what was happening; all I knew was that I was very frightened.

It turned out that my drug use had given me a blood infection. I spent the next year in the Intensive Care Unit. Just when I didn’t think things could get any worse; my doctors called for a family meeting. The doctor somberly closed the door and said, “Mr. Roque you are not getting any better; you are going to die in this hospital. Do you want to continue dialysis, or do you want us to make you comfortable?” That was a very difficult pill to swallow. Many things come to mind when you’re facing imminent death. I thought to myself “This is it? This is how my story ends?” After I got over the initial shock, I started writing my will. The most disheartening thing about that was it was very short. I thought I had all the time in the world, but as it turns out, you never know what tomorrow will bring.

It was at this time I knew that I was no longer the prisoner of any substance. Never again would I put my family or myself through the horrors of addiction. I knew then and there that I would never use again!

When most people find themselves in a life and death situation, the first thing they do is start bargaining with their higher power. I was no exception. I promised if I ever left the hospital, I would not let this ordeal be in vain; I would help someone else.

Now, all I had to do was get myself out of the hospital. It turned out to be easier said than done. The road to recovery was a long and hard one, but through intense therapy, I was able to regain most of my upper extremities. Eventually, I would even breathe on my own. Finally, on May 27th, 2009, after 2 years and 7 months, I was healthy enough to leave the hospital. Even though I was now in a wheelchair and had to do hemodialysis, I was alive. I knew that the worst day at home is better than the best day in the hospital.

Once I arrived home, it was time to keep my end of the bargain. Having dropped out of out of High School, I knew it would not be easy. The first thing I did was enroll in Adult School. After one year I earned my GED and was the commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony. Now, I am in my second year at Merritt College earning a 3.47 GPA in pursuit of a Master’s Degree in Sociology with a Registered Addiction Specialist (RAS) credential. I have also been accepted into Phi Theta Kappa (an honor society).

While I am here, I’m trying to enjoy the journey; all the while being an unofficial advisor to help the newer students make the transition into college life. I also discovered that I like learning; through education I feel whole. I feel like people understand me here. When I’m in school, people don’t see a man in a wheelchair; they just see a man.

In hindsight, becoming paralyzed was one of the best things that ever happened to me; it gave me freedom. In the past, living a normal life was just a pipe dream. Now it’s become a reality.

These days my life is great! I stay busy with school and studying for the Addiction Counseling Exam. I’m also interning at Second Chance – a counseling center in my community that addresses substance abuse. I know I have a long way to go, but with my new found confidence, I know I will get there.

Someone once told me there are three things in life every person needs: someone to love; something to do, and something to look forward to. Now, I have all three. Things are finally going my way. I am truly being the man I want to be!

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