In a couple of months, Rebecca Lester will graduate from the School for Advanced Studies at Miami-Dade College. She will graduate with her high school diploma and an Associate of Arts degree in communications. It will represent a milestone for a teenager who suffered a severe concussion in an accident in December 2011.
“I was on my school bus and we had a substitute driver and she hit the brakes and I hit my head twice,” Lester says. “I was listed in the severe category. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through that.”
Before her concussion, Lester attended Coral Reef High. After the accident, she was enrolled in the school system’s hospital homebound program.
“The teacher would come to my house because I couldn’t sit in the car for a long period of time,” Lester says. “I had extreme dizziness and nausea. I couldn’t read and I had short-term memory loss and irregular sleeping patterns because my chemical balance was changed. I was still having emotional trouble and depression until February of last year.
However, her conciliation has improved enough to allow her to stop taking all of the medication she had been using. She continues in the 504 program that allows students with mental or physical disabilities to have extra time on homework and tests.
“It was mainly set up because I was having short term memory loss, but I’ve come up with ways to cope with that, so it’s not so much of a problem,” she says. “I haven’t used it since moving to SAS.”
Lester was in the homebound program for six months.
When it was time to go back into the classroom, she decided change schools. She chose SAS because she wanted more of a challenge and she knew about SAS because her brother had attended the school. When she goes on to college, she plans to major in communications or visual environmental studies.
“It’s a communications degree,” she says. “It’s focused on using communications to help the environment.”
So far, Lester has been accepted to the University of Richmond in London and John Cabot in Rome as well as Cornell. She also has applied to Florida International University.
Lester is interested in taking courses in anthropology, cultural studies, writing and design.
“I love writing; writing and photography are the two things I like to spend most of my time doing,” she says. “And also poetry.
I’ve had one poem published in an anthology and I had a few pieces published in an online magazine called Teen Ink. I also have some photography in Teen Ink.”
Despite being sidelined with injury, Lester managed to do community service while in high school.
“There’s a group called Treemendous and I became involved with them helping to plant trees along U.S. One,” she says.
“Miami-Dade Parks has a program where you can participate in plantings and beach clean-ups.”
Lester is president of the Imaginary Club, a community service club that has conducted collection drives for items to be donated to the needy. She is also vice president of the sports club, captain of Mock Trial, director of the Photography Club and general officer of the Glee Club. She was named a semifinalist for the National Achievement Award from the National Merit Foundation.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld