College is hard work. Just ask the hundreds who graduated recently from the University of North Texas. But one young woman had to overcome much more than her classmates in order to receive her diploma.
Amber Lacy knows all about the power of hard work. It paid off Saturday for the UNT broadcast journalism major, when she walked across the stage during graduation.
"I was super happy," she said. "I was thinking, I did it! I really did this."
For Amber and her family, commencement was emotional — a reminder of what it took to get to that day, one which she thought might never come.
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Four years ago, just days after high school graduation, Amber was a passenger in a small car which was involved in a major accident. She was sitting right behind the driver, and took the brunt of the impact. The crash left Amber in a coma for several days with a traumatic brain injury.
"Everything was going so good," she said. "And one thing can just throw off everything."
While classmates went off to college, Amber had to learn to read and write all over again.
"At first it was really frustrating," she said of the everyday tasks she could no longer do. "In your mind I'm like this is every day stuff. I know I can do stuff like this."
Friends helped in her recovery, giving her pictures of moments they shared and writing their names on the back of those photos, to help her remember their names. They sent get-well cards and wrote letters of encouragement.
As she recovered, it gave Amber time to reflect.
"It's constantly brought up to me," she said. "Like, do you know how blessed you are? I know."
It all led to Saturday, when a young woman who doctors thought might not live walked across the stage to get her diploma.
"Sometimes it's kind of unbelievable, looking at how far I came," she said.
And how far she still wants to go. Amber recently was hired for a promotions job by a Dallas radio station.
"I'm just ready to get started," she said. "To see what's out there. To get my life going."