Motivation on Wheels

Editorial Piece: An Ode to Arzarte and his legacy

By Jaime Rodriguez

Emmanuel “Manny” Arzate, the youngest of 5 siblings, learned to challenge and face adversity in his life at an early age.

At 2-years-old, when most toddlers are learning to speak and walk on their own, Arzate was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA, which is a strain of Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic disease that affects the nervous system which controls voluntary muscle movement. As the effects of the disease progressed, he was bound to a wheelchair. His life from then on was a challenges and filled adversities.

But that didn’t stop him. Instead, he made the best out of every waking moment in his life. From a very young age, he was very active in school. A brilliant young mind, he graduated at the top of his high school class. Arzate certainly didn’t stop there.

He continued his education. College life may have been challenging, but contrary to what was ‘supposed’ to happen, he was more involved than ever. He joined numerous organizations and fraternities and was a big participant in SGA, AMA, DSP, Lambda Chi Alpha, and MDA, only to name a few. He finished strong and earned his bachelor’s degree in both Marketing and Finance, with honors.

By now, most people who had come across this gentleman knew that he was in fact a force not to be reckoned with. Upon his graduation he held several jobs before leading a successful full time career. Later, he pursued a Masters of Business Administration.

But Arzate wasn’t all about school, or all about work. One of his most important characteristics was how he gave back. Here was a young man that to most, it would seem, faced many challenges and adversity and yet it was always about his strong faith and belief in others. He always found a way to uplift and encourage his classmates, and coworkers. He always seemed to find the good in people, and he certainly was not a shy one when it came to making new friends.

Arzate’s most recent fundraiser, MDA’s “Fill the Booth Campaign,” supporting research for Muscular Dystrophy raised $5,000.

Living the life that he did, Arzate had a dream of becoming a motivational speaker. He began doing motivational talks in front of local area high school students, and he was also receiving invitations to speak at much bigger conferences. In one of our last conversations, he mentioned that he wanted to become involved in a TED talk, and I have no doubts that it would have been truly spectacular.

When he passed away, it was deeply saddening, but it was also so humbling to see how everyone had such high regards for him and his family. When I sat at his funeral, one gentleman said “There were times that I had to carry him onto the truck, but what he didn’t know is that he carried me many more times than I had to carry him. He was always there to listen when I had a tough time, always encouraging me.” Upon looking through his social media, seeing the hundreds upon thousands of comments and pictures you realize that this guy truly lived. He was a party animal. He was a genius. He cared, probably more than most.

He was 26 years young when he passed, and it’s been 1 year since he died, but he left behind a legacy of love, laughter, and joy that live within the hearts of everyone that ever came into contact with him.


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