The morning starts with a sleepy, thin, blonde-haired young woman waking just before the crack of dawn.
She eats her breakfast in bed, like every other morning, determined to start off each day better than the day before. She’s not too fond of bright lights extremely early in the day a dear friend John explains, and sometimes she wrestles mentally with herself, deciding on what to wear depending on how she’s feeling. She’s sometimes tired and so weak.
She brushes her teeth, combs her hair and gets her make up on, as many other young ladies her age typically do. After getting all of her things packed, sorted and ready to attend her classes in the morning, she waits for John to open the door, help her out of the car and comfortably into her red leather wheelchair.
She hasn’t walked since age 17. She’s 27 now.
Theresa Boyd isn’t your average ‘run of the mill’ Tyler Junior College student.
She’s witty, intelligent and extremely deadline attentive her Speech and communication professor M’Liss Hindman explained.
A close friend named Julia says she’s one of the most compassionate and honest best friends she’s ever had…
“Theresa knows things about me that I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling just anyone,” Julia Bodiford said with a slight smile and dirty clay-covered hands as she crafted in an empty dim lit art hall of Jenkins. “She never looks at the negative of any circumstance, but [she] is always fixed on what good can come out of a situation,” she continued.
Theresa’s professor described her as being wise and selfless, “The ideal individual,” but out of all the wholesome words expressed by those closest to her, Theresa explained that she will never again be defined by what others think of her, good or bad, but by what she thinks of herself…
She believes strongly in speech and speaking out for individuals who need support. It’s the only way she knows how to give back. She is no longer defined by a single word “disability” as she often puts it or an unfortunate circumstance that left her unable to use her legs.
“A part of my speech is about definition,” she said softly, her gaze focused straight and her dark blue eyes burning with ambition. “I’m not my wheelchair, I just happen to use it.”
Despite Theresa’s challenges she had to overcome, there was no better place to start fresh than Tyler Junior College. She believes that there are brighter days ahead, there has been since the accident.
“I wasn’t expecting as much as I got,” Boyd said. “It was a bigger school and I thought, I would get stuck in a corner somewhere, but all the staff and all the teachers have been remarkable and I’m so glad, that I’ve gotten an opportunity to learn what forensics speech was from Mrs. Hindman and after seeing my teammates compete, I was hooked.”
More than friendship and compassion was gained while Theresa attended TJC. She discovered a nitch for forensic speech, in which she accomplished many goals, established a 4.0 GPA and made a name for herself.
“There was one contest in particular where the competition was so tight, that I would have been fine with getting last place,” Boyd said. “I wouldn’t have had a grudge in the world, but as they were calling names out and reached the end of the list, my name was finally announced, making me the a 1st place competitor of the competition. I was speechless, for the first time in my life.”
Theresa is a double state champion this year in 2012 and won first place in Speech to Entertain at both the Texas Intercollegiate Forensic Association’s Spring State Championship for universities and colleges and the Texas Community College Forensic Association’s state championship for only community colleges. This has qualified her for the national competition at the American Forensic Association’s tournament in April.
Hindman believes that being on theteam had a lot to do with Theresa’s new found success. She remembers just how willing and determined Theresa was from many of the students she’s taught throughout the years, that didn’t have obstacles to overcome.
“From the first moment that I met her, I knew that she was special,” Hindman said. “I knew that she had a special spirit and that she could do whatever she wanted to. She would always turn in assignments within a few hours of it being assigned, and that alone proved she was willing to do whatever she could to be successful.”
Not only has Theresa made a difference in her own life, but also in the other’s who she has come in contact with.
“Theresa inspires me to speak up for the things that I believe in,” Bodiford said. “I’ve learned thanks to her, to turn the other cheek when someone says anything offensive that reflects poorly on my character. I know that if she can make it through challenges and harsh words, so can I.”
Although, Theresa’s success is a highlight, she can never wipe away the memories of what left her unable to walk, talk and speak for several months.
It was summer and she was just 17.
Theresa had been visiting with friends and they later decided to go for a drive, not knowing that their attempt for fun would end tragically down the road.
The vehicle her and her friends were riding in struck a Colbert head on. The impact threw everyone from the truck. Among those thrown from the vehicle, the driver was the first found. He had sustained minor cuts, scrapes and bruises, not suffering any life-threatening injuries from the accident.
After more searching, another friend was found, but due to the extent of the wreck, the truck rolled over him and he died instantly. Theresa wasn’t found until after the scene was cleaned and cleared. The force of impact had thrown her further than the other passengers away from the scene. It happened so fast.
Theresa was rushed to the intensive care unit, of East Texas Medical Center.The odds were stacked against her, but she wouldn’t give up. She was a fighter.
The cold, empty hospital room was to her, like an emotional prison.
As she laid in that hospital bed, connected to machines and being fed through a feeding tube, she had never felt more alone, weary and confined.
Theresa never imagined in an instant, her life would have taken a turn for the worst. She was devastated.
“It was a hard pill to swallow,” Theresa said. “I remember waking up two weeks later in a hospital unable to breathe without a ventilator, going from a girl who ran track and cross country to not being able to do a single thing at all. I was looking at scholarships to other schools, but I didn’t have any other choice at that time in ICU, but to think. I knew then, that the chapter was over, but I was determined that the book was not finished.”
Looking back, Theresa explained that she’s overcome a lot most people don’t have to in their lifetimes, but instead of looking at it negatively, she focuses on how to make a positive difference through it all.
“My goal is to advocate for people with disabilities and go to hospitals and talk with individuals who were injured just as I was and tell them that, ‘it’s ok and that life isn’t over.’ I want to let them know that there’s so much out there in the world to gain and you don’t need the ability to walk in order to get it.”
Theresa believes that everything happens for a reason despite the circumstance or outcome a
nd she wants more than anything, to leave behind a meaningful legacy for others to be led, inspired and encouraged to keep fighting to win the war, even if they think they’ve lost the battle she explained.
“I believe that when we all die and leave this earth, we will leave behind a footprint… It’s up to us and the actions that we do and the decisions that we make, is to how that footprint will be measured when we are gone,” she said. “When I die, and pass on, I want my footprint to be measured by the people I’ve helped and by the people I’ve been able to touch. That is what I believe, is the reason for all the challenges in my life, to make a serious difference in the world if just in a single life,” she said softly, briefly closing her watering eyes for a moment.
“You have to learn to do the best you can, with whatever it is that you are given, leaving behind something truly special… A footprint.”