When Avonte Oquendo disappeared last year, it was his family and members of the autism community who led the charge in his search. Sadly, Avonte didn’t survive his ordeal and his family wants to ensure that no one else has to go through what they did. Recently, Avonte’s brother Danny entered law school with the goal of becoming a legal advocate for autistic kids. New York’s NBC4 has the story:
Danny Oquendo, 27, passed the LSAT six years ago and is finally starting New York Law School this week, inspired by Avonte.
The autistic boy disappeared last October after he ran out of his Queens school unsupervised. After a months-long search that gripped the city, Avonte’s remains were found in the East River near College Point in January.
The city’s medical examiner ruled that the cause and manner of Avonte Oquendo’s death could not be determined.
Oquendo said the loss taught him a painful but valuable lesson.
“You shouldn’t wait for something bad to happen to pursue those dreams because you could be the person that stops that from happening,” said Oquendo.
He now wants to become a legal advocate for children with autism and to make sure they are “placed in the right programs, making sure they’re being watched after carefully, and that if there’s any wrongdoing done, they have legal representation.”
Oquendo’s mentor, Gary Mayerson, started the country’s first law firm focused on autism cases. The two met when the firm offered a reward to find Avonte.
“The more and more we talked, it became obvious he wanted to go into this area and represent children with special needs, which was so admirable,” said Mayerson.
Danny is set to take an internship at Mayerson’s law firm next summer. Read more.
Working with New York senator Chuck Schumer, the Oquendo’s have already helped to get Avonte’s Law passed. The legislation hopes to make schools safer for kids with special needs.