celebrate education - brought to you by the amarillo globe-news
 

Accident won't stop drive to graduate

By Lisa J. Pawlowski
For the Amarillo Globe-News

Aug. 6, 2008, is a day the Horton family will never forget.

Eighteen-year-old Heather was two weeks away from starting her senior year at Bushland High School when she and a friend were in a car accident.

She was flown to Northwest Texas Hospital. Doctors gave her less than a 1 percent chance of survival because of a traumatic brain injury.

A little more than a month later, she was taken to Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas for rehab. There, she had to relearn to walk, talk and swallow. Miraculously, she managed to do it in six weeks all while doing school work.

"It's just a miracle by the grace of God that the child is even here," said Leslie Horton, Heather's mother. "She's been sick; she's had surgeries; she's had infections. She doesn't let it get her down."

A teacher visited the Horton house twice a week to help Heather stay on track for graduation.

"She's not able to attend school because it's too overstimulating," Leslie Horton said. "You and I can filter out what we need to and focus. She doesn't have that ability yet. A classroom filled with 20-30 students is not a good place for her to learn."

The Hortons credit their small community for helping them to get through the school year.

Leslie Horton is also grateful for teacher Donna Corder.

"When Heather has thrown up her hands and said, 'I can't do any more,' Donna has always been there saying, 'Yes, you can.' She's a fabulous teacher," Leslie Horton said.

She credits Heather's drive and strong will for her recovery. When Heather returned home from Dallas, the school said it would do anything to help Heather catch up on her credits and even offered to let her graduate with her class and finish her credits during the summer if she fell short.

"She said no to that," Leslie said. "Heather wants that diploma. She wants to walk across that stage because she did the same thing as everyone else. She was determined, independent and strong willed before the accident. I think that sheer determination has carried over. She's maintaining a 'B' average."

Heather said she now has an appreciation for everything since the accident.

"Never take for granted the things that God has given you the ability to do," she said. "I appreciate my family and friends, the ability to walk, to swallow, to talk and move because overnight things can change."

Heather plans to go to nursing school and wants to be a registered nurse.

Editor's note: Beating the Odds is a series published in the Amarillo Globe-News from May 10-24 designed to tell the stories of all kinds of students who are graduating despite the challenges they've faced. It is part of Celebrate Education, a program designed to bring awareness to the need of educational attainment in the Texas Panhandle. For previous stories, visit www.celebrateeducation.org.

calendar of events
  • January 11
    Kickoff of 2009 Program
    Find out what Celebrate Education is all about in this special section in your Sunday paper.
  • March 7
    Regional Spelling Bee, West Texas A&M University
    The annual Regional Spelling Bee will feature the top spellers from the Amarillo area. The top five winners will receive scholarship money ranging from $500 to $5,000 and the winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to represent the area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Spring and Fall
    Amarillo Reads community-wide reading projects.
    Dates and details TBA
  • April
    Amarillo Education Matching Grants Program. Exact date TBA
  • April 10
    What's a Kid to Do Special Section
  • April 12
    What's a Kid to Do at the Amarillo Civic Center
    This event will focus on activities and camps for children to participate in during the summer..
  • May 8-29
    Beating the Odds
    A series of stories published daily in the Amarillo Globe-News during the graduation season that profiles people who have inspiring stories to tell about the degree they are about to receive.
  • May 12
    Ready for the Real World program at Amarillo Civic Center
    AISD juniors get training on what's going to face them in a little more than a year.
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Special Section
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Event at West Texas A&M University
  • Fall
    Discover College Day
    Fifth graders from area schools visit college campuses.
  • October 1
    Great Jobs Special Section
    Focusing on well paying jobs available in the area that people may not know about.
  • November 2
    Career Education Special Section
    Focusing on businesses and others in the community helping young people gain a career vision.
  • November
    Yes You Can Event
    Designed to help people gain information about the next level of education from GED to PhD. Date TBA.
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