Editor’s note — On Thursday, July 11 at 7:30 p.m. Great Oaks students in the Aspire program who completed the High School Equivalency (HSE) or adult diploma program will celebrate with a graduation ceremony at Northstar Community Church in Loveland. Here’s a story of one graduate for whom the milestone is particularly meaningful.
For most young people, earning a high school diploma is a highlight of their first 18 years. For Taylor Carter, it wasn’t even the biggest event in her life in the past 18 months.
Carter was born more than four months early. As a result she had damaged intestines and had most of them removed soon after birth.
Originally from Cincinnati, Carter’s family moved to Florida when she was in the second grade. As she grew, she had increasing difficulty. Finally, after an unsuccessful surgery at age 16, her doctor recommended a move to a city with more appropriate medical facilities.
“Boston, Philadelphia and Cincinnati were the top recommendations,” Carter’s mother said. “So, we came back home to Ohio.”
At Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Carter became a candidate for an intestinal transplant, and the operation was performed in April 2018.
Just months after receiving a very rare intestinal transplant, Carter decided it was time to complete high school. Her health issues had kept her out of school for nearly two years, and she felt ready to finish.
A Children’s Hospital employee recommended the Aspire High School Equivalency (HSE) program at Great Oaks. Carter began in the summer of 2018.
“Taylor was shy and anxious in the beginning, but started to fit in quickly,” said instructor Katie Travers. “She soon became confident, strong and outgoing. It was like watching a flower blossom to watch her.”
Carter has a simple explanation for the change. “Once I started attending, I realized that it’s not bad — I can do this,” she said.
But the classroom experience wasn’t destined to last long. A bout of novovirus, which typically lasts a day or two for most people, kept Carter down from October through May. It also interrupted her High School Equivalency classes. Fortunately, Travers found a way to keep Carter’s studies going.
“I got permission for Taylor to keep studying at home, and developed a distance learning curriculum,” Travers said. As Taylor completed online classes, the two kept in touch by phone, email and occasional face-to-face meetings.
Despite the ongoing recovery from her transplant and from her illness, Carter continued to work on school work.
“I had the mindset of ‘I want to keep going. I want to get it done’” she said. In fact, her mother said that it was difficult to get her to stop studying.
“We had a party for the one-year anniversary of her transplant,” said Carter’s mother. “But Taylor spent the day taking HSE practice tests.”
Carter smiled at the recollection. “I was determined to pass the tests,” she said.
And she did pass, making up nearly two years of school in just months — after becoming the first patient in Cincinnati to survive an intestinal transplant and while dealing with a seven-month-long virus. And now? “I’m doing great,” said Carter.
Although the graduation ceremony isn’t until July 11, Carter is already thinking farther into the future. She will head back to school this fall to begin studying nursing, with the ultimate goal of becoming a transplant coordinator.
“I always wanted to help people,” she said.
There’s little doubt that Carter will continue to succeed. As her father, John, summed it up: “She came, she saw, she conquered.”
Submitted by Jon Weidlich, director of community relations, Great Oaks Career Campuses.