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Pinay With Birth Defect Graduates From College In New York

She dreams of starting a nonprofit organization to help people with disabilities.
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Grace Theresa Agalo-os, 23, is the daughter of former National Bilibid Prison superintendent Gregorio Agalo-os. She was born with spina bifida, a Latin term for "split spine."

The condition is described by the Spina Bifida Association as what happens when the spinal column does not close all the way when a baby is still developing in the womb.

In 2005, when Grace was just nine years old, her family decided to migrate to the US so she would have access to more advanced treatment for her condition. Just recently, she marched with the graduating class of 2017 at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. She is the student council president of her batch.

All her life, Grace has been in and out of the hospital. In her graduation speech, Grace shares: "When I was born in the Philippines, the doctor said that I would never be able to walk. But at six years old, I did—just as how babies learned to walk, I fell. I would fall over and over again, my mom would never pick me up. I always asked myself, 'Why won't my mom pick me up?' One day, she told me, 'Pick yourself up, no one else is going to.'"

Indeed, Grace credits her mother's tough love and the rest of her family's support for her success. She says, "For my mom and for my family who're here…they are the ones who shaped me to be the successful person that I am today."

She tells ABS-CBN North America News Bureau's Don Tagala: "My biggest dream is to start a nonprofit [grassroots organization] in the Philippines, because there are a lot who are willing to help the Philippines and people with disabilities."