News Article Details

Local special Olympian accepted into college program

Appeal-Democrat - 8/21/2017

Aug. 21--When Kindlelon "Kobie" Respicio sets foot on the campus of St. Mary's College of California today, it will represent the culmination of countless hours of studying and immeasurable support from the special needs community.

Considered high-functioning autistic with a significant learning disability, Kobie's path to the private college in the Bay Area was not conceivable by many a few years ago.

"I had a blueprint in my head around freshman year that I wanted to go to a four-year college," said Kobie, of Yuba City. "Some of my teachers put me down and said I was not capable of going to college. I told myself I am going to prove those people wrong."

His parents, Patrick Respicio and Eugenia Liwanag, said they are extremely proud of Kobie's accomplishment. His acceptance into St. Mary's was far more than they themselves ever thought possible.

"If he got accepted into Sacramento State or even Yuba College, we would have been tremendously proud," Patrick said. "People told us that after high school he would have to go to life classes and that college would be beyond his scope."

Accepted into St. Mary's accelerated master's program for justice, community and leadership studies, Kobie hopes to advocate for others with special needs.

Kobie's sense of community and desire to improve it can be seen in the long list of efforts he has taken part in. Whether it is his founding of a farm engagement center where those with special needs could learn life skills or his years of commitment to the Boy Scouts of America Troop 389, Kobie makes it a point to help those around him.

Those efforts to improve the community have come to the attention of many, including on a national level.

On Tuesday, Yuba City Mayor Stan Cleveland issued a proclamation of the City Council to honor the "hometown hero."

Last month, Kobie was recognized for his years of participation in Special Olympics by receiving an honorary ESPY award. In honor of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, ESPN chose to honor 24 Special Olympians from around the country who best exemplify the organization.

The recent outpouring of support for Kobie and his efforts are only a small part in what has been an immense uphill path.

Born prematurely at 28 weeks, Kobie spent the first three weeks of his life on a ventilator. Cardiac issues and difficulties in eating were some of the first challenges he encountered.

It was in kindergarten that his parents first began to notice Kobie's struggles with learning. No matter how hard they tried, some of the most basic concepts were not being absorbed. Difficulties in speech and chronic ear infections also presented hindrances to his learning.

Up until the second grade, Kobie was enrolled in special education classes. Patrick and Liwanag said it was at this point that faculty began to have doubts about Kobie's ability to advance from anything beyond special education classes.

His move to Riverbend Elementary School in the third grade was the first notable turning point in his educational journey. It was at this point that Kobie was mainstreamed into a normal classroom setting. Though his grades stayed below average, it did set the groundwork for a major shift in the sixth grade.

His parents credit Special Olympics as being the catalyst for his improving in school. It was from this point that Kobie began to steadily improve his grades.

But for all of Kobie's hard work, it may not have been possible without the constant support and strategizing from his parents.

"You just have to fight for it," said Patrick. "When he has homework, we have homework. We stay up until 2 o'clock to make sure he is ready for the next day. Unfortunately, I think other parents with special needs kids don't do that. Parents have to see how their kid is doing at school and engage with teachers. With a little help and some hard work, you can overcome those struggles."

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(c)2017 the Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, Calif.)

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