Inspiring Okeechobee: Omar Alverado believes in working a little harder

OKEECHOBEE — Despite what some might consider insurmountable obstacles, Omar Alverado lives a full and complete life. Born without sight and with no pituitary gland, he spent the first 18 years of his life in and out of hospitals. His mother, Anita Nunez, said he spent the first three years of his life in the hospital, but she believed he could do anything he wanted to do, and was determined not to let anything hold her son back. When he was 3 years old, she enrolled him in the Okeechobee public school system at North Elementary School.

It was there, Omar said, that he met his “second mother,” Jacque Hayes, who not only taught him things like braille but also taught him how to eat, because at that point, he still had a feeding tube. They began with soft foods, he said, and gradually worked their way up to regular foods like pizza. Mrs. Hayes worked with him throughout his entire school career and was like family to him, he explained. “She still is,” he said. “I see her almost every week at church.”

Omar attended public school except for a brief period when he was tested at a school for the blind in St. Augustine, but he said he tested ahead of the other children his age, and he did not want to go to school there. He liked being a part of the Okeechobee school system. He had friends there, and for the most part had no problems. When he did have the occasional problem, he said those kids usually ended up being some of his closest friends.

Omar played the trumpet in the marching band when he was in high school. Omar’s brother Butch guided him with a hand on his shoulder as they marched and, like everyone else in the band, Omar memorized the music. After high school, he joined a few local bands, which he said was a lot of fun.

During high school, Omar Alvarado played the trumpet in the marching band and after high school, he played in several local bands. Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble.

When Omar graduated, he believed he would receive a diploma for those with disabilities, which is not quite the same as the diploma everyone else gets, he said, but right before graduation, he found out he was getting the same diploma as everyone else in his class. Despite spending most of his senior year in the hospital, he had a 3.6 or a 3.8 GPA. He can’t remember for sure.

“I wasn’t the sharpest kid in the school, but I got by, and here I am,” he said. “I want people to know you don’t necessarily have to have sight to do what you want to do.”

Omar enrolled in what was then Indian River Community College to work on obtaining a degree in information technology after graduation, he said. He has always loved working on computers. But, things did not work out as he planned. Soon after he enrolled, he found himself back in the hospital sicker than he had ever been, and it wasn’t long before doctors told his mother to just take him home. There was nothing they could do for him. “Just enjoy the time you have left with him,” they said. Mrs. Nunez said she looked the doctor dead in the eye and told him it was not up to him if her son lived or died, it was up to God, and then she took Omar home.

Mrs. Nunez said God did choose to heal Omar, because it has been almost eight years, and he is standing here today. He has not been sick like that since. The doctors were amazed, she said.

Omar is working on a sleep sound project, a compilation of nine tracks of ambiances to help people relax when they have trouble sleeping. “If you’ve had a stressful day or your mind is racing, these tracks can help you relax,” he said. He has tracks of sounds like rushing rivers, rumbling thunderstorms and a sailboat swishing on water that he recorded on location. One of the rivers was recorded in Oklahoma City and another in Broken Bow. His family takes a lot of trips, he said, and he loves to travel.

His all-time favorite thing to do right now is to fly his radio-controlled hexacopter and quadcopters. His Uncle Bryan introduced him to the quadcopter, he said, and he was immediately hooked. He was captivated by how agile they are. “I’ve always been fascinated by aerial things — planes, jets, rockets, all manner of aircraft.” Using only his ears, Omar is able to tell where his copters are and is able to do acrobatics with skill that a sighted person would envy.

Omar Alvarado has no trouble flying his quadcopter using only his hearing to guide him. Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble

Although he has not yet returned to obtain his I.T. degree, Omar still enjoys working on computers and does basic computer repair. According to Omar, everyone has problems of some kind, and they shouldn’t let those problems stop them from doing what they want to do. They just have to work a little harder, he said.

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