May 31, 2018 4:53 pm

Pierce College student Erica Myron has always been a survivor. Growing up in the foster care system in Arizona wasn’t easy, and she had to learn how to take care of herself from a very young age. On her 18th birthday, she packed her bags and left her last foster home, looking forward to a long-awaited life of independence. She rented an apartment for herself and her young son, and she learned quickly how to support herself and her child.

When her cousin asked to live with her, Erica didn’t hesitate to help a family member in need. In spite of her cousin’s history with drugs, Erica saw an opportunity to help turn her life around. “My family told me not to let her live with me, but I really just thought she needed a second chance,” Erica said. “But, she kept doing drugs and brought people around the house all the time.”

In 2003, a group of people broke into Erica’s apartment, demanding money. She refused. “They decided to take my money anyways,” Erica said. “Then, they drove me into the mountains after leaving my nine-month-old son on an apartment complex sidewalk in Phoenix.”

She tried to memorize every road and every turn they took before they stopped in the middle of nowhere. Erica got out of the car, and saw a man standing on a hill with his hands behind his back. “He pulled a gun out and told me to make my peace with God,” she said. “He told me if I could run faster than a bullet, that I could live.”

She ran as fast as she could, until she heard the gun go off and felt something like a rock hit her back. “I rolled down a dusty hill and heard the gun go off a couple more times,” she said. “I reached the bottom of the hill and saw him pointing the gun down at me. I knew if I showed him I was still alive, he would kill me. I looked up at the stars, focused on one, and started thinking about my son.”

Erica eventually heard the car pull away, and she began to cry for help. “There was a man farming at 1 a.m., and he heard me. The police showed up, but it took a while for me to believe I was actually being saved.”

The police found her son, and arrested the suspects the next morning. Erica survived, but was paralyzed from the waist down. “That was the start of a journey of self-discovery, which I’m still on today,” she said. “It’s taken a long time to accept myself in a wheelchair. I never had to rely on anyone for 19 years, and then all of a sudden, I have this medical device attached to me at all times.”

With the encouragement of her grandmother, she enrolled at a local community college in Arizona and received her associate’s in criminal justice in 2006. “I wanted to be a voice for people who have been impacted by gun violence,” she said. “But, nobody would hire me, and it was the first time I realized that people don’t necessarily see me the way I see myself.”

She continued to go to school, studying new subjects and searching for a new career path. In 2012, she moved to Puyallup with her son, and enrolled at Pierce College with the goal to major in Spanish.

She applied for a position as a student leader in Puyallup, where she serves as Equity and Diversity Coordinator. In her position, she organizes events and activities to bring cultural awareness to campus.

“I love this job, because I can help students explore and learn about other cultures, which is so important to their education,” she said. “Working in Student Life has gotten me completely out of my comfort zone, and it’s given me confidence in myself and my ability to work through problems and come up with a solution. I feel like I’m truly part of a team. They’ve helped me accept myself in a wheelchair, because they accept me. If I could stay in my job and keep going to school at Pierce forever, I probably would.”

Erica plans to receive her associate degree from Pierce College before transferring to University of Washington Tacoma to earn her bachelor’s degree in Spanish.