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It is grad season, and for Khalia Carter of Fort Myers, Florida, walking on the stage meant more than just receiving a diploma.
The high school senior missed part of her final year after a tragic car accident. But she was determined to make it to one event — graduation — even if it was against the odds for her to walk across the stage.
"I thought it was about to be over by then. That was the hardest time there," Carter said on her second day in the hospital following the crash. "I just didn't want people to think I was faking. And I was not. I was actually in a lot of pain."
On April 18, Carter was hit by a driver with a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit, according to the police report from the crash. The crash left her with traumatic brain injuries.
With about a month left in school, doctors determined she would not be able to return to her classes. Instead, her days would consist of physical therapy every day to help her regain motor skills, like learning to walk again.
Carter's mother Shawnda Cook documented every step of her recovery process.
"My emotion is to be sad and upset," Cook said. "But, then there are the other emotions, like, 'Wow, this girl has the strength to move on, we need to look up to her.'"
Carter missed much of her senior year celebrations but said graduation would not be one she missed.
And that is just what she did on May 21, when she walked across the stage on her own to receive her diploma.
"It's almost impossible to get it done until it's done," Khalia shared in her senior quote. "So, if you put your mind to it and work for it, you will do it."