Mass. woman overcomes paralysis to earn law degree

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) - AnnaMaria Kiaresh does not consider herself a hero, nor does she consider herself to have done something extraordinary.

But if it helps anyone to use her difficult journey for motivation, she’s OK with that.

“If I can be your inspiration, I’ll be your inspiration. Even if I can just be a model to let you know it can be done. It wasn’t an easy journey for me. But just don’t give up. Don’t give up,” Kiaresh said in a recent interview in the moot courtroom at Western New England University School of Law.

It was June 15, 2003, when the then-17-year-old Kiaresh was riding her bicycle in Forest Park and had a bad fall.

Since that day she has been paralyzed from the chest down. In an interview soon after the accident, she talked of her goal of becoming a lawyer for a corporation.

And now, 11 extremely difficult years later, she is just that.

Kiaresh, 28, graduated from the law school this spring. She has already been hired as in house associate counsel for Farm Credit Financial Partners in Agawam, a company where she did an internship last year. She starts a week after she takes the Massachusetts and Connecticut bar exams this summer.

“It’s a great environment and I’m so lucky,” she said about the new job.

Kiaresh has struggled hard to maintain as much independence as possible. She has struggled with sometimes needing to accept assistance. Most of all she wants to be viewed like everyone else.

Among the questions she said she gets are: “Why do you smile so much? Don’t you just want to say f… everything, be in bed and be miserable?”

Said Kiaresh, “I’m like ‘absolutely not.’ From the second I fell and my mom had gotten the phone call from my cousin - because they live right around the corner in Forest Park - and I heard my mom’s voice screaming as I was getting in the ambulance and I knew I couldn’t feel my legs, I had to automatically click in my head ‘OK focus, because if anything, you’re going to kill your mom and your family with you.’ “

Kiaresh lives with her mother, Maria Kiaresh, and older brother, Advein Kiaresh, in Springfield.

Her younger brother Shahein Kiaresh missed her graduation because he was teaching in Turkey for a year.

Her father, Hamid Kiaresh, who she said is a huge part of her life, missed the graduation because he had to be with his ailing father in Iran.

But family was not in short supply at the graduation ceremony. Her mom, her brother Advein, 10 aunts, four cousins and her uncles attended.

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