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Becca Tuska was 16 years old when doctors left a surgical tool in her body during surgery for a sports injury. The former dancer spent the next year fighting infections as doctors searched for a diagnosis.
She had to re-learn how to walk and was put on a feeding tube.
But Tuska, now a senior at Legend High School in Parker, persevered.
On May 2, she was one of eight seniors to receive the Missy Martin scholarship, which recognizes young people who have prevailed over adversities in their high school careers.
“Getting this honor — my school honoring me for my perseverance and ability to overcome — means a lot to me,” said Tuska, who recently shaved her head to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
“It’s very heartwarming to be recognized.”
The scholarship is named after a Douglas County High School graduate, Missy Martin. On her way to school in 2002, Martin’s car stalled on a nearby train track and was hit by a Union Pacific freight train. The then-16-year-old was in a coma for about a month and suffered irreversible brain damage.
Martin, a high school cheerleader with aspirations to become a nurse, was able to go to college. She’s now a wife and mother of two young daughters.
Her family started the scholarship fund to help Douglas County students who, like her, have faced and conquered overwhelming obstacles.
“I love it,” Martin said through a smile at the May 2 ceremony at Douglas County High School. She was seen often hugging students, parents and district staff in attendance. “It makes me so happy.”
Principals and counselors from seven high schools across the county presented the $1,000 scholarship to each student. They praised the young people for staying strong through a variety of hardships — the loss of a parent, a car accident, trauma, a chronic illness.
“To all of you, the students,” said Kyle Mossman, a dean at Chaparral High School in Parker, “you don’t know all the people you have touched.”
Learn more about the students below, with information provided by the Douglas County School District.
Ashley Smith, Douglas County High School
Smith has Turner syndrome, a genetic condition that affects physical development, caused by the absence of a female’s sex chromosome. A leader at her school, she mentors a younger student who suffers from the same condition. She also is a percussionist in the marching band.
Carmen De La O, Douglas County High School
After a traumatic experience, De La O has shown bravery and courage. She reached out for help and started therapy. She is a grassroots leader, has a strong faith and does not let her past define her.
Jacob McLemore, Chaparral High School
A car accident in 2016 left McLemore a paraplegic. His goal has always been to attend college, so he took online courses while he recovered. His peers and staff view him as a role model.
Glen McMillan, Rock Canyon High School
The unexpected and sudden death of his father turned McMillan’s world upside down. He was picked for a study skills class called Phoenix, which gave him the tools to become a leader. He’s performed hundreds of community service hours.
Dylan McDonald, eDCSD
McDonald spearheaded the creation of Thanksgiving baskets for families in need throughout the community. He has gained confidence in academics and social settings. Last fall, he transitioned from online school to Ponderosa High School.
Tayla Wilson, Ponderosa High School
Wilson’s mother recently died from cancer. She has maintained a 3.7 GPA, plays in band, runs on the track team and works a part-time job. She holds the school record for running a mile at 5 minutes, 45 seconds.
Rebecca Tuska, Legend High School
Because of her health issues, Tuska has not been able to regularly attend school. She has maintained a strong academic record and keeps a positive attitude. Tuska and a friend started a club and make fleece blankets to give to hospitals for sick children.
Christian Scott, ThunderRidge High School
After his father’s sudden death, Scott felt responsible for taking care of his family. He has remained dedicated to school and kept his grades up. He is active in his school’s cooking program.
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