From abuse to abandonment, from drugs to depression, from the serious illness of a parent to their own battles with life-threatening injuries and diseases, they have suffered the unimaginable. They have experienced things no one – especially a child – should have to experience. But most importantly, they have beaten the odds and overcome incredible challenges, often with the help and support of a special teacher, coach or counselor.
At the April 9 Parents’ Council meeting, seniors from several Cherry Creek high schools, shared powerful stories of perseverance, leaving many in the audience wiping away tears.
Eaglecrest High School senior Ryan Martel was critically injured in a car accident in 2010. After being airlifted to Children’s Hospital, she spent days in a coma in ICU, weeks in rehab learning how to walk, talk and eat again, and months studying with a home hospital teacher. The fact that she eventually returned to school and will graduate with her classmates is nothing short of a miracle.
Smoky Hill High School senior Juan Carlos Banos described how his family fled his homeland of El Salvador to escape gang violence and how difficult it was to adjust to life in the U.S. since he spoke no English. “Everything was hard,” he said. But his eighth grade English Language Acquisition (ELA) teacher connected with him and gave him the courage to pursue his interests in art and architecture. Then in high school, a counselor encouraged him to take Honors and International Baccalaureate classes. “The IB students are like a family,” Banos said. “They all have a dream to succeed.”
“When I was younger, I made the decision not to let my disability affect me,” said Cherry Creek High School senior Kat Casas, who has spinal muscular atrophy and uses a wheelchair. “I love sports and although I can’t play them, it doesn’t stop me from being part of the team.” She is a manager for several teams at Creek, something she plans to continue to do in college, possibly at the University of Colorado.
Larry Ward, Jr., a senior at Cherokee Trail High School, talked about overcoming a cognitive disability. “All that means is that I learn differently,” said Ward, who plans to study animation at Community College of Aurora.
His Cherokee Trail classmate Makayla McFail shared her story of growing up in a single parent family, often on the verge of homelessness, while battling her own serious illness and trying to care for her younger sister, who has special needs. “Sometimes I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders,” she said. “Not the weight of the high school world, but the real world.”
McFail said the support of her teachers and coaches, and being involved in school activities, including tennis, speech and debate, theater, and community service, helped her through the tough times. She is now planning to study neurobiology and physiology at Purdue University and is a finalist for a Daniels Scholarship.
Congratulations to each of these remarkable, resilient students, and best wishes for continued success!
• CCHS – Kat Casas, Yair Ivan Cervantes Lopez
• CTHS – Makayla McFail, Larry Ward, Jr.
• EHS – Ryan Martel, Andrew Jimenez
• Endeavor Academy – Brittany Lucero, Daravion Palmer-Polk
• GHS – Shadasia Ellis, Maurice Sparks
• OHS – Jazzarae Herbert, Eliot Marones
• SHHS – Kayla Fertman, Juan Carlos Banos