Nathaniel Tavarez: Victim of Roswell shooting gives graduation address

Updated: Jun. 1, 2019 at 1:49 AM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - It was January, 2014, when a student at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, New Mexico, opened fire with a shotgun in the school gym. 12-year-old Nathaniel Tavarez was critically wounded.

He was airlifted to UMC where a team of doctors worked on him in disbelief because the outlook was so grim.

Today, this update:

On May 25, 2019, Nathaniel Tavarez was one of 227 students at Goddard High School in Roswell who marched across the football field to receive their diplomas.

Nathaniel Tavarez in 2019 (Source: KCBD Photo)
Nathaniel Tavarez in 2019 (Source: KCBD Photo)

However, Nathaniel was one of a few asked to take the podium and address the class.

Standing before the group, he told his peers, “Just remember that the higher you climb and the further you fall, the stronger you become to keep climbing.”

Nathaniel never mentioned the school shooting, but it’s likely that all who listened knew he was speaking from experience.

That shotgun shooting left Nathaniel totally blind in his left eye. Today, he needs Lasik surgery every year to preserve what little he can see in the right eye.

Nathaniel Tavarez in 2019 (Source: KCBD Photo)
Nathaniel Tavarez in 2019 (Source: KCBD Photo)

Speaking without notes at his graduation, he warned his classmates, “You will face situations where you must go into the fire with no choice.”

Nathaniel suffered wounds that he will carry with him forever. That shotgun blasted hundreds of pellets into his head and body, too many and too deep to remove. Lead poisoning from those pellets is another concern he must not ignore. Nathaniel is tested every 6 months to make sure his lead exposure has not creeped to a dangerous level.

Standing before his class at graduation, he encouraged them, “You will see that you absolutely have the willpower to overcome any obstacle that arises.”

Reading has been a struggle for Nathaniel since the shooting. The many pellets lodged in his brain erased his vision in one eye and still threaten his vision in the other. Yet, he scored an impressive 28 on his ACT!

Nathaniel has been accepted in the Honors program at Lubbock Christian University where he will study Pre-Med with a minor in Family Youth and Ministry.

At his graduation, he closed his speech by saying, “Just remember the new beginnings. Prepare for liftoff and arise for a better tomorrow!”

Yes, Nathaniel Tavarez got a standing ovation.

Surely that was the first of many in his lifetime.

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