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Every year, particularly around graduation season, we hear stories about students who have overcome the odds and embraced adversity for the opportunity to receive their diploma from their college or university. One young woman at the University of North Texas beat the odds, tackling two major obstacles in her life in one moment.
Emily Hernandez was on her way to class at UNT one morning in 2009 when her truck hit a guardrail and plummeted over the side of a bridge on Interstate 820. While Emily survived, she was left dealing with a myriad of significant injuries.
“I broke my neck and my back, my shoulder and my wrist, my ribs, my lungs collapsed twice and my brain hemorrhaged,” she said.
Emily’s friend, a passenger in the truck, died at the scene of the accident.
Once she recovered from her less significant injuries, Emily was left facing a life of limited mobility. Doctors told Emily she would most likely never walk again. However, her education still mattered, and it motivated and helped Emily get her life back on track.
“If I could’ve done this when I was walking, then what do my legs have anything to do with me not being able to do it,” Emily said.
As she completed the final stages of her degree, members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and the UNT community were busy raising money for special leg braces that would assist Emily in a very special graduation day moment.
When the moment came to receive her diploma, after years of struggle, Emily–with the help of her leg braces and a walker–made her way across the stage.
Emily had a few inspirational words after her powerful moment:
“Now, I’m standing. Now, I’m strong. Now, I am a force to be reckoned with,” she said.
Well said, Emily, and well done, Pi Kappa Phi.