Looking at the young man confined to a wheelchair, one might make many assumptions about who he is. It would be understandable for this person to be bitter, pessimistic, or angry.
But Davien Graham has rejected all of those assumptions. Graham is known by people around him to be a very optimistic and inspiring individual.
After being shot in his hometown of Monrovia, Calif., Graham became permanently paralyzed on Jan. 12, 2008.
The shooting happened right in front of his church; a place he considered to be a sanctuary after turning away from a life of gangs and violence. Growing up he refused to follow the illegal footsteps of his father and uncle and embraced Christianity.
“It was at one of the safest places I thought it could be,” said Graham. “When it came to that moment, I never thought I would be shot at church. That was very unexpected.”
Almost 6 years later, Graham is living up to his promise to stay on the straight and narrow. He attends Cal State Fullerton and Fullerton College, majoring in Radio/TV/Film. He is also part of the debate team at FC and on Nov. 16 teamed up with D.J. Cabrera to take second place at Cal State, Fullerton’s “Blumer” Speech and Debate Tournament.
“The debate team has actually helped me more than I thought it would. It has benefited my speaking skills a lot. I’ve learned to be more confident with jumping into something and learning it. It’s helped me with what I want to do with my career with directing and music,” said Graham.
Members on the debate team describe Graham as well-spoken, organized and energetic.
“I’m very glad that he’s on the team,” said Doug Kresse, Professor and debate team coach at Fullerton College. “He adds a lot. He has good leadership skills and I think it’s just inspiring to have people who want to work hard and want to help other people.”
The biggest struggle that occurred in Graham’s life is not only accepting that he is disabled, but testifying to the crime in court. Graham forgave the person that shot him and says he holds no grudges.
“I don’t hate him; I never did,” said Graham. “There’s nothing more precious than youth and nothing more precious than life. At the end of the day, it’s horrible to know that people have made unfortunate decisions and have to live pretty much in a box. I believe in second chances regardless of any action.”
Graham has been a positive role model for his younger brothers.
“They follow me in every way,” Graham said. “When it comes down to that, I guess I just have to bite the bullet and forget about myself and just focus on the future and my family.”
He describes life at school to be “interesting,” and says this feels like where he was meant to be in college.
When asked what he feels when people stare, Davien said, “I look at it like this. I’m a performer, so I think of it as preparing me for when I’m up on stage, so I have no excuse for stage fright. Some people don’t understand, some people are curious. I can’t always assume that their looks are bad. But I do get looked at a lot, but I don’t even mind it anymore. It’s just like ‘Hey, how are you?’”