Jesus Lares-Sanchez has loved cars for a long time. Throughout high school, he enjoyed working on cars, fixing his 1995 Mitsubishi 3000GT, going as far as taking welding classes which taught him additional metalworking skills.
Cars were paramount in the course of events that forever changed the life of the Eisenhower graduate.
Last August, Lares-Sanchez and his friends were heading to a car show in Seattle. During the early morning drive through Snoqualmie Pass, his friend hit a pothole, as he remembers. The car began to roll and Lares-Sanchez, who was sleeping in the backseat without his seat belt, flew out the back window.
He landed on some rocks far enough from the car that his friends must have gone looking for him. His face was full of scratches and blood. But that wasn’t all the damage. Lares-Sanchez has damaged his spinal cord, which will require lifelong use of a wheelchair.
He spent two months recovering in hospital. While he was away, he heard from his younger brother that his teachers and classmates were worried about him.
Ray Harris teaches Lares-Sanchez’s favorite class at Eisenhower High School, welding. Harris had him as a student during his junior and senior years.
Harris said news of the accident came just before the start of the school year. It was shocking to learn what had happened to the young man he knew as hardworking and kind.
“Just lots of prayers over the summer and fall,” Harris said. “And then when he came back, it was totally different for him.”
When he returned, Lares-Sanchez had to relearn how to move around the school.
“It was just difficult at first, but after a while I got used to it,” he said.
He remembered his friend and senior Eisenhower colleague, Miguel Baez, as being particularly supportive during this time. The young men have been friends since sixth grade and spent the last year together.
Lares-Sanchez said a lot changed after the crash. His mobility is limited. School was harder. He can’t exercise or work on cars like he used to, although those are things he’d like to get back to while he continues to heal.
But on Tuesday night, he took a long-awaited milestone when he graduated from Eisenhower. It was not exactly as he had imagined.
“I expected to, you know, walk. But there has been change,” he said.
On his last day of high school, he said he felt weird not coming to school every day. He liked school. He got along well with his teachers and had several close friends. Sometimes his academic and social worlds have combined, like when he created a metal Raiders logo as a birthday present for his friend during his welding class.
Lares-Sanchez’s educational journey will continue at Yakima Valley College this fall. His goal is to become an orthodontist, an idea he received from his older sister who works in the dental industry. He said he appreciates that dental work can be done while seated.
Through all the injuries, pain and challenges, Lares-Sanchez had simple advice for his comrades.
“Don’t give up and keep going,” he said.