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– Editor’s note: This is the third installment of a four-part series profiling students who have overcome the odds to earn a high school diploma in 2014.
As high school students are pushing towards graduation, bad things happen.
Whether it’s a missed assignment or a failed test, it’s all part of the life of a student.
But as tragic as it might seem at the moment, work and grades can often be made up – it’s when things happen out of a student’s control that graduating on time can become a real worry.
Alyssa Garris, a senior at Lancaster High School, found this out during her sophomore year.
Though it’s difficult to tell it now, Garris was born with a cleft lip and palate, something she said caused her considerable stress growing up.
“People always asked me what’s wrong, and how did my face get like that, and I always just told them that’s how I was born,” Garris said.
Garris underwent several surgeries, including jaw surgery in spring 2012. It was following this surgery that Garris’ life changed.
“During surgery something went terribly wrong and I had a stroke,” Garris said. “I wasn’t waking up and my parents couldn’t understand what was going on.”
Her family’s confusion is understandable. Prior to the surgery, Alyssa had no underlying causes that would have caused a stroke.
“It’s just one of those things that happens,” Garris said.
The incident caused Garris to miss school, and put her behind in her classes.
“I had to take extra classes and work with homebound teachers and do extra work with teachers at school,” Garris said.
She also now has to take special precautions in some of her classes and activities in regards to her health.
“I had to be extra careful in gym because I can’t get hit in the head,” Garris said. “I also like to skate, and I really can’t do things like that anymore.”
One of the teachers who Garris said helped her out the most was Jennie Canty, a resource and special education teacher at LHS who has worked with Garris for the last two years.
“Alyssa is a wonderful young lady with good family support. She is very determined and has come a long way,” Canty said. “Personally, I can tell her faith has a lot to do with her persistence. She and her family have very strong faith and that has gotten them through some tough times.”
Following graduation on May 30, Garris said she plans to take a break – something she said her parents are “cool” with – and then hopes to pursue a career as a veterinarian technician.
“I just love animals. My grandfather was raised on a farm, and he was the one who got me into animals,” Garris said.
Though Garris knows times can get tough, she does have positive advice for students going through similar circumstances.
“Just keep pushing through. Even when it feels like you can’t, just keep going,” Garris said. “The wait is worth it.”
Contact reporter Laura Caskey at (803) 283-1158