June 4, 2009 in Washington Voices

Jacob Sabata doesn’t let disability get in his way

Mead High student leads an active life
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Colin Mulvany colinm@spokesman.com photo

Mead High School student Jacob Sabata is a member of the National Honor Society and plans to study electrical engineering. colinm@spokesman.com
(Full-size photo)

Jacob Sabata says the most challenging thing about high school has been “making new friends and keeping up with my work at the same time.” It’s a balancing act many teens can relate to, but Sabata has had other challenges as well.

Teacher Randy Mickelsen said, “Jacob has CP (cerebral palsy). He struggles with speaking, and ambulating is a bit difficult.” Yet according to Mickelsen, Sabata is one of the most active and involved leadership students he has. The 19-year-old senior maintains a 3.9 g.p.a. and is a member of the National Honor Society. Last year he started a Key Club (Kiwanis International High School Program) at the school. “He volunteers for everything,” Mickelsen said. “He’s smarter and more on top of it than most of the students here.”

Sabata shrugs off his teacher’s praise with a grin. He said, “I try to work hard in school.” He plans to attend the University of Idaho and become an electrical engineer. Sabata explained he loves math and science, but not English. He shook his head. “I’m not creative.”

With painstaking preciseness, Sabata told his story. “I was born in Vietnam and moved here with my aunt and lived with her for two years.” However, he and his aunt didn’t get along. “Things got out of hand,” Sabata said. “I was adopted at age 11 by Doug. He was a counselor at my school.”

The stability of his new family allowed him to shine both academically and socially, but he often thinks of his relatives in Vietnam. “I miss them a lot,” he said. “I haven’t seen them in 10 years.”

Though he hasn’t been to Vietnam recently, he has traveled elsewhere. “I went on two mission trips with my church,” he said. In San Francisco and Los Angeles, Sabata worked alongside church members. “We basically ran a day care and worked in food banks,” he said. “We tried to improve the lives of the homeless or poor people.”

Mickelsen sees Sabata display that same spirit of service at Mead High School. “He doesn’t allow his disability to prevent him from doing anything.”

Sabata said matter-of-factly, “I’ve learned how to accept my disability.” And when others make assumptions about his intellect because of his halting speech or awkward gait, he said, “I just try to carry on a conversation with them.”

With wisdom far beyond his years, Sabata offers this piece of advice: “Just live as who you are, and other people will see the good things in you. People are more than just what meets the eye.”

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