Harrowing losses prepare Weber State social work graduate to guide others through grief

OGDEN, Utah — Graduating from Weber State University last week was a big win for social work student David Carrillo, but it came on the heels of some immense losses.

David lost his sight due to Axenfeld-Rieger syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that typically affects the eyes but can affect other functions. He initially lost vision in his left eye at age 7, then his right eye at 24. He was working at a call center at the time.

“It took me a few years to finally get the courage to want to get back into the job force,” Carrillo said. What helped was a training program that taught him how to adapt, travel on his own and use assistive technology. The program bolstered his confidence and a desire to “do more” with his career. 

That’s when he enrolled at Weber State to study social work. “What drew me to social work was people,” said Carrillo, who always considered himself a people person and enjoys seeing others succeed.

“Once I was accepted into the social work program, I found my Weber family, and I really couldn’t imagine going anywhere else,” he said. 

Carrillo thrived in his studies and later found work on campus as an assistant advisor in Disability Services

In 2020, Carrillo experienced a different kind of loss when his 3-year-old son, Lucien, died of congestive heart failure, also a result of Axenfeld-Rieger syndrome. Two years later, Carrillo lost his beloved sister, Evaluna. 

These losses shifted Carrillo’s focus to grief and bereavement — a crucial part of social work. Loss encompasses more than the death of loved ones, Carrillo said, but also touches on life’s changing circumstances. 

“Not being able to see my children’s faces anymore, that was losing,” Carrillo said. “Learning to live without something that you always had, and thought you would have forever, is definitely a process.” 

It’s a process he wants to help other people understand. Drawing from life experience and his studies at Weber State, Carrillo wants to counsel people who are experiencing new loss. 

“I know the sting that grief brings,” he said. “Only people that have gone through such tumultuous situations can really help.”  

Carrillo graduated with his bachelor’s degree on April 27, with his faithful guide dog, Deacon, by his side. To ensure he’s even better equipped for a future in social work, Carrillo plans to return to WSU in fall 2024 to start the Master of Social Work program.

“Weber State is the hallway that’s taken me from the life I had to the life I want, and now more than ever, seems tangible,” he said. “I might not see, but I can see my future bright.”


Bryan Magaña, public relations director
801-626-7948, bryanmagana@weber.edu


Bryan Magaña, public relations director
801-626-7948, bryanmagana@weber.edu