By Noe Ortega
Dedication and resilience led East Los Angeles College counselor Jovany Muñoz to receive a Certificate of Appreciation from the city of Los Angeles.
Muñoz received this award in December for the work he did with the Disabled Student Program and Services Department.
The award came about after some of his students called the Los Angeles City Council and told them about the DSP&S program at ELAC.
Muñoz said that his students really wanted him to be recognized by someone outside of ELAC.
Muñoz said that faculty and staff should have more awareness for students who have disorders that make it difficult to learn, and welcomes any students who think they might have mental health issues to not be afraid to tell someone about it.
“One example Muñoz uses is that side-by-side they’ll see him and one of us and they”ll point to him and say he’s the disabled one and won’t recognize ours because it’s not seen. And that’s completely removed from the DSP&S department and from Jovany,” said Willbert Nuñez, a student worker at the DSP&S office.
Muñoz has been in a wheelchair for the past 26 years after a recurring spinal cord injury. One of the nerves in his spine was affected and was never treated due to his financial problems at a young age.
Muñoz has been working as a counselor with DSP&S students for the past 13 years. He started working part time in other community colleges like El Camino College, Cerritos College, Pasadena City College and Rio Hondo College before coming to ELAC.
Muñoz got his break when he came to ELAC and was offered to be a full-time counselor in the DSP&S Department.
“I feel like this is my passion. This is what I love everyday. This certificate is a little something that I had in mind to bring for all those students that need a voice, or that need support,” Muñoz said.
Muñoz splits his week working in the DSP&S office on Tuesday and Thursdays, and does general counseling at South Gate campus on Mondays and Wednesdays.
“Jovany goes out of his way to make people feel comfortable,” Nuñez said.
“There’s kind of a stigma to disabilities that isn’t seen, and the first thing he said was he went over our disabilities and he talked to us about being welcomed,” said Nuñez.
Nuñez has been a student worker for DSP&S for over a year, but has been a part of the department for two years.
Despite his financial problems, Munoz was able to get an associates degree in computer information systems at Rio Hondo.
He then went on to transfer to California State University, Los Angeles to get his bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation services and a masters in counseling.
“He really cares for the students. He understands because, given that he’s in a wheelchair, he doesn’t see that as a barrier or an obstacle. He sees it as a challenge, so when he talks to the students he talks about that,” said Grace Hernandez,associate dean of Extended Opportunity Programs & Services.