UNT senior paralyzed in crash vows to walk across stage at graduation



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Posted on May 9, 2014 at 11:19 PM

DENTON -- It is the culmination of four years of hard work, and in the family home in Saginaw, reality is starting to set in for 23-year-old Emily Rose Hernandez.

On Saturday, she will be an alumna of the University of North Texas, graduating with a degree in art education, but not before she tackles the biggest challenge of her college career.

"I never really thought of graduating in a wheelchair," Hernandez said.

On Aug. 28, 2009, Hernandez was her way to her second day of class at UNT. She was driving from Saginaw to Denton when investigators think a tire came off her truck. She went over a barrier, broke dozens of bones, and lost the use of her legs and feet.

Six weeks later, she was home and adjusting.

"For me it was just like, 'Okay, I'm paralyzed. So what?'" she said.

She returned to campus is 2010, and in January 2013, she had an idea to make her big graduation celebration even bigger.

"I want to walk. I want to walk across the stage," Hernandez said. "That's my New Year's resolution."

With just days before commencement, she is determined to prove "impossible" is not in her vocabulary.

"It’s empowering," she said. "I’m not literally looked down upon anymore."

Seeing her move, you realize walking is only part of it. She’ll have to grab her diploma and shake hands.

She’ll need someone to have her back, and that is Taylor Lindholm.

"She came to our chapter meeting and we heard her story, and from that moment on, it was life changing," he said.

Lindholm is a junior at UNT, and his brothers at Pi Kappa Phi adopted Hernandez over the last two years. A bikeathon in her honor raised more than $3,000 for her Mean Green-themed braces. He’ll help her across the stage on Saturday.

Until then, she’ll put every ounce into preparing for the moment they call her name. She wants to make the people who helped her get here proud.

But, walking or not, she already has.

E-mail msaavedra@wfaa.com