Emily Hernandez was driving to class with a friend in 2009 when her truck hit a guard rail and flew off a bridge.
Her friend was killed and Hernandez barely survived.
"I broke my neck and my back, my shoulder and my wrist, my ribs, my lungs collapsed twice and my brain hemorrhaged," she told Fox 4 News.
Hernandez, an 18-year-old student at the University of North Texas at Denton at the time, faced a painful road ahead. Her neurologist told her she would never walk again, NT Daily reported last November.
Although it was tough news to hear, Hernandez looked at it is as a challenge.
She posted the video seen below on YouTube last January, telling the story of how she ended up in a wheelchair. She also declared a bold goal: To walk across the stage when she graduates.
"I’m not asking for a miracle of God, I’m just asking to be at the eye-level of my peers," Hernandez told NT Daily. "I just want the same recognition -- not because of my disability, but because of what I’m able to do."
She carried on with recovery -- studying toward degrees in both visual arts studies and studio art -- but her commencement goal did not go unnoticed by the broader university community.
The Pi Kappa Phi fraternity wanted to help out their fellow UNT eagle. So they threw various fundraising events, like the "Marathon of Miracles," where fraternity brothers rode a stationary bike for 72 hours to raise money for a reciprocating gait orthosis brace that could help Hernandez walk.
"My mind was just blown," Hernandez told Fox 4 News. "I was just amazed that someone was willing to put that kind of faith in me."
Eventually, the $10,000 needed to purchase the brace was collected, and Hernandez walked across the stage last weekend, officially becoming a college graduate. Now, she's on to her next goal: Becoming an art teacher.
"Now, I'm standing. Now, I'm strong," she told Fox 4 News. "Now, I am a force to be reckoned with."
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