Columbia

University

Letter of

Recommendation

Mike Cotayo: Comedian, Social Worker, AIDS Activist, and Public Speaker

At just eighteen months old, Mike Cotayo was involved in a near fatal car crash, the result of a drunk driving accident that left him comatose with little hope of survival. After the accident, Mike was diagnosed with acquired cerebral palsy. Doctors warned that the outlook was not great, and most likely Mike would never be much more than a vegetable.

At age 3, Mike attended a special pre-school in Staten Island, NY,United Cerebral Palsy. At this school, he learned to socialize with other children with Cerbral Palsy, while learning skills that would help him move forward in the world. After Pre school he was placed in special education. However, it was soon realized that he would thrive in mainstream classes. In the third grade, Mike became fully integrated into a mainstream curriculum, where he remained until he graduated high school in 1994. Mike went on to Binghamton University receiving a Bachelors in English/Creative Writing, before attending New York University where he received his Masters degree in Social Work in the fall of 2000, when he was just twenty-three years old.

Although he achieved his educational goals, he was not spared the pitfalls that many others with adversity face. Soon after he began working as a social worker, Mike fell victim to Drug and Alcohol addiction. An addiction that was exacerbated by his feelings about his disability, he tried to numb his pain through sex and drugs, and in April 2001, he was diagnosed with HIV.

Now in his thirties, disabled, and living with HIV, Mike has promised not to let these obstacles slow him down. He is the Clinical Director of a New York City AIDS Service Organization managing an Adult Day Health Care Program, and providing assistance to formerly homeless clients living with HIV, He still continues to perform across the country as a stand-up comedian, while providing educational and inspirational lectures on being a person who has overcome adversity.

Drugs, Disease & Discovery: A Journey towards Wholeness

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