Overcoming tragedy: Shaela Warkentin graduates from Fresno State

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Getting a college education is no easy task but for Shaela Warkentin things were made more difficult even before she graduated from high school. (KFSN)

Getting a college education is no easy task but for Shaela Warkentin things were made more difficult even before she graduated from high school.

Back in March 2011, Warkentin was only a sophomore at Bullard High School when one night with her sister, a driver of a pickup slammed into the back of their Mustang at a Northwest Fresno intersection.

"You know living in a sighted world with your sight and then having to live in a sighted world without your sight. It seemed really challenging and it was challenging," said Warkentin.

The impact sent Warkentin crashing through the back window, crushing her eyes and leaving metal and glass fragments in her skull. The driver of the pickup was arrested for D.U.I.

Warkentin now faced a long road to recovery, both physically and emotionally.

"I feel like there was so much going on at that time that college wasn't really, I guess, in the picture. In a sense, it was in the picture because I felt it was something that I had to do," said Warkentin.

She graduated from high school in 2013 and on Friday the 23-year-old will graduate from Fresno State with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in child development. She picked that major and minor because her therapists during recovery gave her so much support and comfort.

Warkentin received a lot of help from the university's Services for Students with Disabilities center providing her with special instructions on how to use technology to help her with her studies.

"I use the computer the same as everybody else. I just use it with a special program that speaks to me. And so it is a big learning curve but you know I have to do it. And then I also listen to books on my phone as well," said Warkentin.

The Valley Center for the Blind set her up with Lennox, a white labrador who has been her guide dog for the past two years.

"He also is a companion which is nice when I'm lonely or when I am stressed with finals. It is just nice having someone or in this case having something there next to me," she said.

Warkentin will attend graduate school this fall at Alliant International University in Fresno where she plans to get her masters degree in clinical psychology.
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