Contributor’s note: I taught Nicholas “Nick” Salazar in the fall 2018 semester. What I remember about Nick was his bright spirit. He sat in the front, right by my teacher’s desk, and I can picture him smiling. As I began the fall 2021 semester, sadly, I received an email that Nick had passed away. A family friend contacted me with the news and has since shared the following tribute to Nick with the blessing of his parents, Michael and Sandra. We also include Nick’s creative response to a homework assignment he completed in my class. I was touched to learn that his parents distributed it as a handout at his funeral.
On August 8, 2021, former ASU student Nicholas Salazar succumbed to an accidental drug overdose. He had turned 21 just a few days prior. At age 18, as a freshman, Nick completed an assignment in Lecturer Meghan Bacino Apao’s English 102 class, which is published below. It reflects a strong creative talent the Department of English wishes to recognize. This talent was tragically lost to an epidemic in our country and schools, ensnaring a vulnerable Nick and robbing us of watching this bright young man soar.
Nick will be remembered as a loving son and a generous and trusted friend. He was a bright and adventurous young man who was always willing to help those around him, even while struggling with his own issues. Nick was the sort of person who would gravitate toward those who were most in need.
But Nick struggled with “fitting in.” His experimentation with drugs in high school turned into the addiction that eventually claimed his life. ASU represented a new beginning—an opportunity to break from the negative aspects of his past and begin an exciting new chapter of his life. He was thrilled to be there.
Sadly, old habits and old temptations don’t go away easily. It wasn’t long before he found new friends that shared old interests. The family chose to bring Nick home. Even though he did well at the local community college and held down a part time job, he continued to struggle with what became a serious addiction, dominating his existence.
We share Nick’s story in hopes it might inspire others to connect with and take pride in their creative side and, for those who struggle with “fitting in” and/or with addiction, to seek the help they need.
An old pair of shoes can contain great wonder. Hidden in age forgotten stories are imbued. Camouflaged in the torn seams between the fabric are past adventures and memories. Tattered rubber from when getting up after a fall seemed impossible. Cracks in the design reveal long ago when the shoes watched from the top of the world. Smudges and scrapes recall painful encounters and troublesome times. The dirt and sand imbedded inside and out depict faraway lands now conquered. Worn out soles from when fatigue set in, but determination ignored giving up. Faded leather reflects days spent enlightened by a warmer sun. Missing rubber in the heel could indicate an abrupt stop during an exciting ride. Though the terrain constantly transforms the same soles step forward. Different routes explored always return home where they now rest. With each step taken new experiences unfold. Each mile traversed symbolizes a completed expedition. Though memory of adventures fade, and stories slip away from the mind, the damage to these shoes remain and in with it their story. How far these shoes have gone could be measured in how much the person wearing them grew and learned. The first time putting them on no one would ever guess who they will meet or what they will discover. The last time taking them off only one person knows what these shoes encountered. Every shoe has a story and a person to go with it. These laces are still tied in a knot foreshadowing another journey.
—Composed by Nicholas Salazar
August 22, 2018
Arizona State University
First-year composition class
Image of Nick Salazar, courtesy of his family, taken on the day he left for ASU.