LEGAL BATTLER: Rosa Colon wanted to be a lawyer, and neither a horrific car crash in 2000 nor a litany of health and personal problems that followed could deter her from her dream.
In her wheelchair, the 43-year-old Milton woman received her law degree on May 30 from the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover, after a series of setbacks that she said she could not have overcome without the assistance of her mother, Rosa Maria Colon, whom she called “my angel from heaven.”
On April 1, 2000, as Colon was driving to law school, her car ran into a guard rail after a blow-out on Route 93 in Andover and flipped over. The injuries left her a paraplegic, and she intended to take a year off from school to recover.
But that plan was thwarted by health complications, including falling out of a chair and fracturing a femur that left her in a body cast, and a couple of years later suffering a collapsed lung that put her in a coma for 2½ days. Along the way, she married her high school sweetheart, but divorced six years later, in what she called “another trying moment.”
Throughout, her mother backed her, she said. And two years ago, when Rosa Colon returned to school, it was her mother, a human resources and contracts manager for La Alianza Hispana in Roxbury, who drove her there two or three days a week, waiting in the cafeteria for her daughter to finish her classes, and driving her home after.
“I’d convinced her I could drive myself, but she was afraid,” Colon said. “She made arrangements from work so she could do it — she was very loyal to my dream. She became part of the Massachusetts School of Law family; they all knew her, she’d wait in the cafeteria, bringing along her work to do. My mom is the strongest woman I know.”
At one point during those two years, her mother fell down stairs and injured her hand.
“With a cast on, she’d still go with me,” Colon said. “She would not let me go alone.”
Colon said it was with “my mother’s enduring love and support that I finally reached the finish line.”
She also gives much credit to her law school professors, particularly dean Michael Coyne, “who gave me red-carpet treatment, anything I needed, he got for me. They knew me when I was walking, and when I went back, they opened doors to whatever I needed, I cannot say enough about the school.”
Colon also earned a dean’s award for her perseverance and overcoming obstacles, at the school’s annual law day weekend.
Colon lives in Milton with her twin sister, Maria Angelica Colon Brown, and her sister’s husband, Ronald Guy Brown Jr., who sold their house in Norwood to move in with her.
Rosa Colon is working as an assistant clerk magistrate in the West Roxbury division of Boston Municipal Court. With her new law degree, her goal is to become a judge.
“There are not many Latino judges,” she said. “I would like to make a difference. I think I am, as clerk magistrate, and want to do more. I want to change people’s lives. I’m going to persevere and fight for that.”
If she’s not busy enough, Colon has also set her sights on becoming Miss Wheelchair America 2014.
“That’s my next project,” she said of the nonprofit that advocates for and recognizes the accomplishments of women who use wheelchairs. “They give voice to those with disabilities.”