Zack Collie lost his independence at age 15, the victim of a diving accident that left him paralyzed and reliant on others to perform such simple tasks as brushing his teeth. Now 22 and in college, with a career he is building toward, he is getting some of that independence back – with an apartment of his own.

“Just having a place that’s mine … it’s very, very satisfying,” Zack says from his beautiful one-bedroom apartment in the affluent city of Yorba Linda. “Before the accident, I was very independent, and then in an instant, I depended on others for everything. Because of the affordable program at Oakcrest Terrace, I am able to live on my own and not rely so much on my parents. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Zack’s determined pursuit of self-sufficiency illustrates why affordable communities such as Oakcrest Terrace are so badly needed, said Steve PonTell, President and Chief Executive Officer of National CORE. “Our residents are hardworking individuals who aspire to achieve great things. Sometimes life events make that path more challenging,” Steve said. “Moving from dependency to self-sufficiency is extremely important to our residents, and something we’re committed to helping them achieve.”

For Zack, who is beginning the process to get his driver’s license, location and mobility were a major consideration in where he could live. A driver takes him to school at Cal State Fullerton, where he is studying for a career in human services. But it’s the ability to safely navigate his wheelchair to stores and restaurants nearby that was the difference maker.

“If I want to go out and eat, I can roll to the next parking lot and not have to worry,” he says. “That’s more important than you might think.” His apartment is designed to be wheelchair accessible, with wide doors, lower counter spaces in the bathroom and kitchen, and hard-surface floors. He has a personal assistant who helps him get out of bed, get dressed and handles other tasks that he can no longer do on his own.

Zack had been hanging out with friends at Newport Beach when he ran into the water and dove into a wave, breaking his neck on the shallow surface below. The injury changed Zack’s life forever. Being able to move from his parents’ home to his own apartment is a huge milestone. Zack has begun to take on more and more responsibility for his own life and well-being. “I was such an active kid,” Zack says. “We used to joke that I would have my bags packed and be out of the house as soon as I turned 18 … It is great to get a little bit of my independence back.”