They are refugees, cancer survivors, children of broken homes. They have struggled with disabilities, lost loved ones. 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 15 Parents’ Council meeting, seniors from Cherry Creek high schools, shared powerful stories of struggle and strength, eliciting tears and cheers from the audience.
From divorce, unemployment and foreclosure, to her mother’s drug addiction and the death of her father, Endeavor Academy senior Shaienrae Archuleta has experienced more than her share of life’s harshest challenges. But resilience is her mantra; “I always encourage my friends to never give up.” Archuleta will attend Community College of Aurora this fall on a scholarship from the Retired Employees of Cherry Creek Schools (RECCS).
Mukanya Tchombela, a senior at Overland, lost both parents when he was just four, and later fled with his brother from the Republic of the Congo in central Africa. After time in a refugee camp, he ended up in the US, speaking French and Swahili, but no English. He set daily and semester academic goals, got involved in National Honor Society and Link Crew, and took college-level classes during high school. This fall he will study biological sciences at the University of Northern Colorado, with the ultimate goal of attending medical school and becoming a doctor.
Mallory Evans, a senior at Eaglecrest High School, was 11 when she was diagnosed with leukemia. She went through 30 months of chemotherapy and 37 spinal taps. On top of that, three of her close friends died within four months and she lost her uncle at the beginning of this school year. But somehow she made it through, earning a 4.0 grade point average the last two years. “I can truly say that if it hadn’t been for the amazing people in Cherry Creek Schools I don’t know how I would have made it through,” said Evans, who will study Art History at the University of Colorado.
Grandview High School senior Summer Hammond learned she had cancer on her 16th birthday. After 56 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation, she hit remission and is now cancer free. She said she tried to maintain a positive attitude and stay active throughout her treatment, and that other cancer patients inspired her during her darkest days. This fall Hammond will attend Dartmouth College.
Seniors Aya Blanco, from Smoky Hill, and Lorissa Cummings, from Cherokee Trail, both lost a beloved parent during their high school years. Blanco cared for her stepmother as she battled, and finally succumbed to breast cancer, while Cummings’ father, who worked at Cherokee Trail, died of a heart attack last November. Both have struggled to overcome the depression, anger and fear that comes with such a loss. “The power of loss built my character,” said Blanco, “and it opened a new door for my journey.” Blanco will attend Colorado College and Cummings has enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
Cherry Creek High School senior Katie Keeler has spent most of her life in a wheelchair. Paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident when she was only seven months old, she told the crowd “all I wanted was to be normal, to look normal.” Yet her struggles have helped her grow as a person. With the support of her family, friends and teachers, she got involved in many school activities, including Speech and Debate and Peer Ambassadors. “Laughing and joking and having homework is the best medicine,” she said. Keeler will attend Colorado State University this fall.
Congratulations to each of these remarkable, resilient students, and best wishes for continued success!
• CCHS – Katie Keeler, Jeremy Silva
• CTHS – Lorissa Cummings, Elijah Martin
• EHS – Mallory Evans, Josiah Martin
• Endeavor Academy – Shaienrae Archuleta, Jeremy Wiberg
• GHS – Summer Hammond, CJ Emanuel Manning
• OHS – Liz Alvarez, Mukanya Tchombela
• SHHS – Aya Blanco, Bisrat Tadesse
Posted April 17, 2013.