North Texas

UNT Student Won't Let Life's Challenges Get in the Way of Dream

For most college students, long days are the norm. At University of North Texas' hospitality management program, it's no different.

But for one student, long days are compounded by life's demands.

On Tuesday, some of DFW's premier chefs visited class at the student-run Club at Gateway.

"Guest Chef Day is always amazing," said senior Danielle Shepherd.

Shepherd was one of the many students working to prepare a full course meal and dessert to feed a crowd of hundreds at a sold-out event.

"Yeah, it's been a long road," she said.

Four years ago, one week before finals, Shepherd and her husband were involved in a serious car accident. It was her sophomore year. The crash left her with back injuries and a concussion.

"The accident was pretty bad," she said. "The recovery was pretty bad, but I felt like I needed to keep going."

A four month recovery followed, from an accident that could have killed her.  But that time period was followed by a miracle, of another kind.

"This was when my daughter was born," she said, browsing through photos of the day she gave birth.

But raising Emily, who's now two, meant taking a full year off from school.

"You never really appreciate what you can do until it's taken away," said Shepherd. "And I've learned to appreciate a lot from that moment."

Six years after entering college, Danielle is a senior. She's also a full-time student mom with two jobs, a 90 minute drive to and from school, and a new-found inspiration.

"And then I came back, and I was like, I need to finish," she said of her time away spent recovering, and then parenting. "I need to focus. I need to do it for her."

Hoping to someday own her own event planning business, Danielle needed to set an example for her family, by getting her diploma. She is scheduled to graduate in December.

"That moment will mean so much," she said. "I've been through so much for that piece of paper, and I can't wait to hold it in my arms."

Some things, are worth holding on for.

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