05/09/04 — People 'embraced me for me'

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People 'embraced me for me'

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 9, 2004 2:07 AM

A familiar sight around the Wayne Community College campus for the past few years has been the duo of Tyrone Starkie and his mom, Evelyn.

Tyrone, 21, was born with muscular dystrophy but is fiercely independent with his electric wheelchair. He is quick to say, "There's nothing wrong with me mentally."

He attended school at Edgewood Community Developmental School and went through elementary and middle school, where he did well academically. He said he has been well-supported by teachers through the years.

"People looked past my disability and embraced me for me," he said.

He can do just about anything except stand up, so his mother has accompanied him to most of his classes since he graduated from Eastern Wayne High School in 2001.

"She goes in and makes sure my books are taken out," he said. "If I don't need help, I'd rather not have it."

Mrs. Starkie said she takes care of elevators and doors that are not handicapped accessible. Through the years, her son always had attendant care but when it came time to enroll in college, the paperwork was not processed in time to get one. So she volunteered.

"I just wouldn't feel right if that was the reason to keep him from coming out here," she said.

So while her son was in class, she visited the library and made many friends.

"People know her as well as they know me," Tyrone said. "It's become a second home to her, too, and she has become a second mom to some of the students."

Tyrone said he is glad his mother has been able to share the college experience with him and likes that she has been able to meet so many people.

"I realize that God has a reason for everything," he says.

Mrs. Starkie said before her son became a student, she had never even visited the campus.

"I enjoyed being out here," she said. "It's been a learning experience for me."

She admits it has been frustrating at times, standing in the hallways, waiting for class to be dismissed.

"It takes a lot of patience," she said. "But a parent really has to put their mind into it and her heart to want the child to succeed."

Her husband, Willie, credits Evelyn with being a great caretaker.

"A lot of people think just because you don't do anything but walk around and observe things, that you're not doing anything," he said. "That's as hard a job as you can get your hands on."

Tyrone received his associate degree in human services on Friday night. He said he would eventually like to counsel people and hopes to attend Wesleyan College next year to study psychology. First up, though, is a summer job.

He said he feels he learned a lot and did a lot of maturing during his time at Wayne Community. The staff made sure there were services for him and helped with anything he needed, he said.

He also became very active in extra-curricular activities, serving as vice-president of the African American Males Committed to Success, vice-president of the human services club, and as a representative on the Student Government Association.

"I'm always doing something," he said. "I never just sit still."

Others have commented that he has been an example and an inspiration.

He said, "People tell me that by going out there every day despite my disability, smiling, doing my work, that they can do the same thing.

"Even though you may have problems at home or elsewhere, you have to kind of put that behind. The way you conduct yourself affects somebody else."

He was recently given a special award for his determination and his mother was recognized for supporting him. She was again honored Friday night during her son's graduation and given a bevel-edged crystal plaque.

It read, "Recognizing Evelyn Starkie as an outstanding mother. In honor of your tireless dedication to our student and your son, Tyrone Starkie, enabling his pursuit of education and participation in campus activities, 2001-2004."

Tyrone has a lot of gratitude for both parents' support through the years, saying they have always been behind him in whatever he's wanted to do.

Evelyn said she is happy about her son's accomplishments.

"I'm thinking about when he first entered school as a child," she said. "It was just kind of a struggle.

"Not the learning process, but the physical part, things he had to go through with physical therapy. Just to see him go those steps, I'm really proud of him."