A Path to Success
For Yeana Carbajal, born with cerebral palsy, every day seemed impossible to get through, let alone the rest of her life...until she met the Communities in Schools coordinator at her school. Now she sees a clear path ahead to a bright future.
Born with cerebral palsy to hardworking Mexican immigrants, 14-year-old Yeana's path has not always been smooth. The summer prior to her first year at Crockett Junior High School in Odessa, she underwent hip surgery and was informed by her doctor that she would be unable to return to school at the beginning of the year. With minimal understanding of English, neither of Yeana's parents was able to grasp the complexity of their daughter's condition.
Upon learning that one of her new 7th-grade students would be absent at the start of the school year, Yeana's special education teacher, Tracie Schiwart, contacted Liz Avila with Communities In Schools of the Permian Basin to help her assess Yeana's situation. Avila and Schiwart paid a visit to Yeana's home and were shocked to discover the young girl confined to her bed. Almost two months after Yeana's surgery, she had yet to receive physical therapy. Avila and Schiwart met with physical therapists and social workers from the Texas Department of Health to arrange for the proper medical attention and social services. With so many pitching in to help, Yeana was able to return to school by the beginning of her second semester.
Despite the enormous hurdles Yeana had already overcome to return to school, several important challenges still lay ahead. Yeana did not have a reliable way to get around the building due to the unsatisfactory condition of her manual wheelchair. With assistance from Crockett Junior High's special education staff, Avila worked with the Texas State Insurance Agency to procure a fully-funded, brand new motorized wheelchair for Yeana.
Additional obstacles remained. Yeana faced a four-foot gap separating her home from the pavement, making it nearly impossible for her to enter and leave her own house. Avila wrote a very passionate letter to Tracie Schiwart's church, describing what Yeana had to do every morning to get out of her house. The church was very moved by Yeana's story and immediately wanted to help. Once the materials were purchased for a 37-foot plywood ramp, The Men's Group from the First Church of God in Ector County, Texas, completed the ramp in less than a week.
At the conclusion of 7th grade, Yeana's nearly straight-A report card highlighted numerous academic successes. One of her favorite classes was physical education, in which she was able to participate in group activities. In addition to her regular academic schedule, Yeana was also an enthusiastic member of Crockett Junior High School's handbells choir and toured with the group. "You should see her around the hallways at school now. She's simply everywhere and everyone knows her. She has tons of friends," Avila remarked. "This young lady has certainly had a host of problems throughout her young life, but she is, without a doubt, a bright light with a bright future."
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