Student takes steps toward lifetime goals
by Mark Andrews
May 29, 2011 | 3499 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cartersville High School senior Michael Alexander on Friday, May 20, joined his long-time friends during the school's graduation ceremonies. Although all seniors had been working toward the goal of graduating their entire academic career, Michael also had been working on the goal of walking across the stage without the aid of a walker or cane.

At 5 years old, Michael suffered a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. Although the accident created physical changes for Michael's day-to-day life, mother Janice Gravley and P.E. coach Hayley Davis said the accident never affected Michael's personality or attitude.

"He wanted to graduate with [the class of 2011] because this is the class he was with in kindergarten and first grade," Davis said.

Davis, along with other faculty and staff, would go to the school's football field with Michael on a regular basis to practice walking.

"We put him in the middle of the football field without anything and [made] him walk across it," Davis said.

Like many other male teens, Michael equated sports with a personal goal.

"When we [went] to practice [on the field], Michael [called] it 'working out,'" Davis said.

And like all athletes, Michael needed his coach to help stay on track with the game plan.

"It used to be a struggle to get him to walk, he would get mad," Davis said. "He would get upset with me, he would get upset with himself, but he kept saying [walking the stage] was one of his goals, so I kept pushing him."

Described by his mother and Davis as "very popular," Michael didn't let the use of a walker or cane slow down his high school experience, making honor roll and attending prom and other activities inside and outside of school.

"[Michael] is a music guy," Gravley said. "I think something he really gets a kick out of is going to concerts, and he doesn't meet a stranger. There are students from the other high schools who know him who I don't recognize."

Asked of his favorite activity, Gravley smiled and humbly said, "To walk," giving honorable mention to video games.

Gravley said the accident caused a restart in the family's regular routine, but the changes came with results.

"From the time of the accident, he started in a wheelchair," Gravley said. "He had to learn all over again. It was like I had two children, because I had to go back and he was back in diapers, he had to eat baby food again, it has been a whole other learning experience from the beginning."

In time, Michael relearned these skills and more recently, added another step in his pursuit of becoming more self-reliant.

"The [ongoing goal] has been doing the transition from a walker to a cane, the ability to not have that assistance of a walker and to be more independent," Gravley said. "He still needs assistance in areas, but he does have a lot of independence about him."

Davis said the positive attitudes of friends, family and CHS students and faculty helped Michael reach his goal.

"Being negative with [students] is the biggest thing," Davis said. "You have to stay positive, and also not pushing them, they have to be pushed or they're not going to rise above."

Gravley said Michael's plans after graduation are to continue his education and to find a job working in the community.

"Just because he's got that disability where he needs that assistance to move around has not stopped him," Gravley said. "Really, there's nothing he can't do."