Category Archives: SCI Superstars

SCI Superstar: Kris Cordero

Finding your place in the world after a spinal cord injury can seem like an impossible task. For Kris Cordero, 36, this was certainly the case. He felt as if his identity had been stripped away and lapsed into a full-blown depression for years. This however was the impetus for his next chapter in life. It wasn’t easy discovering this path however for this former high school athlete.

All it took was one interaction and Kris knew instantly what his new role in life was to be – he wanted to become a mental health therapist. But it did not happen overnight. He had to put in years of schooling and his perseverance is sure to inspire others with spinal cord injuries, showing how you can change aspects of yourself after an SCI in order to survive.

Why He’s Fearless

Growing up in Oklahoma, Kris loved wrestling. Unfortunately, he injured his spinal cord at the C5-6 level during a wrestling match in a tournament final. He was 16 at the time. “I was completely numb for three years and incredibly depressed for eight years after my injury,” he says. “I had a lot of anger and resentment the first year of my injury, even though I tried to not let it show. I struggled with suicidal ideation regularly, just trying to find my purpose.”

After high school, he attended rehabilitation at Craig hospital in Colorado., It was there he was able to discover his life’s purpose. “I decided I wanted to be a therapist while I was inpatient at Craig. A nurse asked me to talk with another patient who wasn’t doing very well. Through our small conversation I was able to restore hope, and he started coming out of his room and working through rehab. I was hooked, this is what I wanted to do with my life. Having this passion helped me to stay busy and focus on it, rather than idle time.”

And that is when Kris set to work on his academic career, which was a full 180 degree difference from his previous life. “I had to switch completely from being an athlete to academics in order to become a therapist.” Kris enrolled at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, and graduated with his Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology. Once he received his degree in 2008, he moved to Colorado for five years where he started his Master’s of Science in Professional Counseling at Grand Canyon University.

After moving back to Oklahoma, he continued his studies and graduated. He is now one examination away from becoming a licensed professional counselor. One day Kris would love to receive his PhD in clinical counseling as well. As for what he is doing each day, he works at a local community health facility providing therapy for 7 to 12 people each day. “I primarily work with adults, and anyone who is asking for help and presents to the clinic . I have a group of people that I regularly provide therapy to as well.”

What’s Next?

The topic of forgiveness has been at the forefront of Kris’s practice as well, knowing how toxic not forgiving someone can be after a SCI. He is working on a book as well. “Forgiveness can be a tricky subject, especially if it took place from the hands of another person. You have to be intentional; you have to want to become the best person of yourself, and living with unforgiveness can cause a lot of other issues,” he says.

“Manifestations, in my opinion, of living with unforgiveness can cause gastrointestinal issues. If you’re living paralyzed, you know that this can be a train wreck all by itself. You must be intentional about wanting to get better, find a therapist, find a regular person to talk to. If it gets 1% better, that’s better than no percent, and simply doing nothing means that it will not get better.”

If you’re paralyzed and struggling to forgive after your injury, Kris recommends journaling. “You have to simply start by trying and if you’re not ready to work with someone, start by journaling. I believe this is a good process to start expressing what has been held in for so long. Can’t find a therapist, find a close friend or make one that you can trust talking about things. Not trying or doing anything about it basically means it will not get better. It’s a process.”

Confronting the topic of forgiveness himself, Kris plans on meeting with the wrestler that broke his neck in a few weeks. “It’s set to take place at the arena we were wrestling in when the accident occurred,” he says, and it will be filmed by local TV.

If you’re struggling with forgiveness after your spinal cord injury and want help, contact Kris at kdcordero@gmail.com.

Follow Kris on Social Media

– Twitter: _kdcordero

– Instagram: _kdcordero

– Facebook: /KrisCordero

SCI Superstar: Ali Stroker

The theater world will never be the same for people with and without disabilities thanks to Ali Stroker. You may have just heard of her because of her recent Tony win, but she’s been working hard for years in a world where wheelchair-users are rare. She has, without question, shattered the glass ceiling for actors in wheelchairs, proving that you do not need to stand up to rise to the top.

Ali, however, didn’t find her passion for the performing arts until high school, which she says is when she started to truly feel alive. A huge proponent of finding your passion and rolling with it, read on for the latest on one of the shiniest SCI Superstars out there.

Why She’s Fearless

Growing up in Ridgewood, New Jersey, Ali only remembers life in a wheelchair. Paralyzed at age of 2 in a car accident, she grew up as a wheelchair-user, which she admits wasn’t always the easiest. “I was always looking trying to find someone that looked like me, and I never could.” Now 31, she is now that person little girls in wheelchairs look up to.

After Ali discovered her love for theater, she says it changed everything. “Finding something you’re truly good at can bring opportunities and bring good energy into your life,” she says. After high school, Ali went on to study at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 2009, she went on to audition for as many productions as she could.

In 2011, she made the first notch on her Broadway belt by being the first woman in a wheelchair cast in an off-Broadway production as a lead in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Paper Mills Playhouse in New Jersey, and this was just the beginning of her burgeoning professional theater career. She reprised this role again at the Philadelphia Theater Company, which earned her a Barrymore Award Nomination.

Ali also began to get roles in movies around this time. In 2011, she was cast in the short film, I Was a Mermaid and Now I’m a Pop Star and in 2012 she was cast in The Glee Project, a reality show that placed the winners on the real Glee TV show. She earned second place, which got her a guest role on the fourth season. Ali was also cast in the film Cotton at this time, starring Gary Cole (he played the boss in Office Space).

After a short stint on MTV’s Faking It, Ali was cast in another big theater production – Spring Awakening – in 2015, a Broadway production that took place directly on a Broadway stage in New York City. This too was a first for actors in wheelchairs. After this show, she was cast in ABC’s 10 Days in the Valley and Lethal Weapon, as well as Drunk History on Comedy Central, where she played Judy Heumann, the famous disability rights activist. And in 2019, she was cast in the role of a lifetime – Ado Annie in Oklahoma!

What’s Next?

Ali won a Tony Award for her performance in Oklahoma! on June 9, 2019, making history as the first person in a wheelchair to win a Tony. Ali is now sure to be a household name in the theater world, and let’s hope in Hollywood as well. Continuing her role in Oklahoma! throughout the rest of the Summer, she is slated to star in a new episode of Charmed on the CW later this year.

In addition to her work on stage, Ali is also known for her advocacy. She is the co-chair of Women Who Care, which supports United Cerebral Palsy of New York City, and she’s a founding member of Be More Heroic, an anti-bullying campaign that tours schools throughout the country.

– Ali’s official site: https://www.alistroker.com

Watch her Videos!

Watch Ali accept her Tony Award

Be More Heroic by Ali Stroker

The Rollettes Honor Ali at Be Boundless Event