By Eddie Mike Garcia
Vocational counselor with the California Department of Rehabilitation in El Monte, Robert Michael Barrios, has assisted East Los Angeles College students with disabilities with financial aid.
Barrios has helped individuals with disabilities for 14 years through the DOR and has focused the last four years helping students enrolled in ELAC’s Disabilities, Support Programs and Services (DSPS) office.
Barrio’s efforts and hard work have enabled ELAC students with disabilities to overcome financial burdens associated with college expenses like transportation needs, books, supplies, registration and tuition.
Barrios offers these students guidance and counseling so they can graduate from ELAC and continue down the highway of learning.
He has helped approximately 182 ELAC students with disabilities attain about $2 million in financial aid, scholarships and other programs.
All of Barrio’s classified client information is stored in a data system they call the Aware Management System.
Counselors at ELAC’s DSPS often refer students to Barrios with financial aid matters and needed vital resources.
In 2016, Jovani J. Munoz, a DSPS counselor, referred an ELAC student named Felipe Antonio to Barrios.
Antonio went on to graduate from ELAC this past spring and is currently a student at the California State University, Los Angeles.
Antonio is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree and even plans to acquire a master’s degree.
Barrios mentions how satisfying it feels to hear that a student with disabilities makes the decision to follow their dreams no matter what obstacles might be in the way.
Barrios himself had a physical disability.
He was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and dyslexia early on in his life, yet never let it become a distraction to his own career goals.
In 2016, Munoz and Grace Hernandez, director of the DSPS, presented Barrios with a distinct time piece.
A hand-crafted clock to acknowledge his service with ELAC’s students with disabilities to achieve their goals. The inscription read: “Thank you for your hard work and dedication”.
ELAC president Marvin Martinez gave a special recognition to Barrios in 2016 for his contributions in assisting ELAC students enrolled in DSPS.
At the ELAC graduation ceremonies this past spring, ELAC Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez told the audience at Weingart Stadium that Barrios has done a tremendous job and a great service to the community.
“Thank you, Mr. Barrios, for your unselfish service to our students here at ELAC,” Rodriguez said.
Barrios said that he has learned a lot while working with disabled individuals and college students.
Even though Barrios will retire from the DOR next year, he plans on devoting some of his spare time here at ELAC with the DSPS to help future students with disabilities find the necessary resources available to them.
“I love my job very much besides, it’s not just a job, it’s a rewarding career,” Barrios said.
“Every individual with disabilities is unique in their own way and that’s what makes them special.”