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‘This does not define us’: Las Cruces mariachi teen who survived 25 surgeries has message for class of 2020

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- For the past eighteen years of his life, Oñate High Senior Greg Rocha has been enamored by mariachi music.

"Very passionate," Rocha said. "I've been a fan of it all my life."

However, there was a time when the Las Cruces mariachi aficionado did not know if he would be able to stand and perform music for a crowd.

"When I was a baby, when my mom was having me, she was told that I was going to be born a vegetable," Rocha said.

Rocha told ABC-7 he has had 25 surgeries in eighteen years to correct his scoliosis. He also struggles with seizures.

"They've been trying to correct my spine, because it was making me crooked," Rocha said. "I worked hard, like I struggled a little bit academically when I was a whole lot younger."

After surviving a childhood of physical, mental, and emotional challenges, Rocha made it to his senior year at Oñate High School. Just before spring break, the pandemic hit.

"This isn't really what we expected, but this does not define us," Rocha said.

Even though his mariachi gigs are canceled and he can't accept his diploma on a stage, Rocha is still beyond excited to graduate Friday evening in the district's drive-thru ceremony.

After eighteen years worth of surgeries and physical ailment's Rocha's spirit is stronger than ever. He has this message for the class of 2020:

"You shouldn't let physical issues get you down because that's not what defines you," Rocha said. "It's how you handle it is what matters."

Health / Lifestyle / New Mexico / News / Video

Kate Bieri

Kate Bieri is ABC-7’s New Mexico Mobile Newsroom reporter and co-anchors ABC-7’s weekend evening newscasts.

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