ST. CLAIRSVILLE -- Kaylee Schubenski has fond memories of her high school experiences at Buckeye Local. She was the homecoming queen and secretary of the National Honor Society. She was also an active member of the Foreign Language, Science, Art, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes clubs. She loved being a cheerleader and was a four-year member of the football, basketball, and competition squads.

Kaylee also excelled in the classroom, finishing fifth in her 2015 graduating class in overall GPA. She was excited about her future, but like many 18-year-olds, she was undecided about where to go to college and what career path to study.

"I decided to start at Ohio University Eastern because it was conveniently located in St. Clairsville, and the tuition was affordable," Kaylee said. "During my freshman year, I explored different career options like law, medicine and finance, but decided to follow my heart, and became engaged in the Middle Childhood program."

She continued, "After choosing my major, I considered relocating to the Athens Campus but decided to stay at OHIO Eastern because of the small, personalized class sizes and overall cost. In addition, Assistant Professor and Middle Childhood Education Program Coordinator Dr. Jacqueline Yahn welcomed me to the program with open arms, and I was performing well in my education classes. As the spring semester of my sophomore year came to an end in 2017, I knew I made the right choice."

Fast forward to 2020. Kaylee graduated with honors a few weeks ago and was named the Outstanding Middle Childhood Education Student. At first glance, these achievements would not seem too surprising. Afterall, Kaylee achieved the same success in high school and "always had the drive to be an excellent student." In addition, she had discovered her passion for becoming a teacher.

However, Kaylee’s accomplishments are nothing short of astonishing, when factoring in the traumatic accident that injured her severely and nearly cost Kaylee her life half-way through her college years.

The incident happened in the summer of 2017. Kaylee was having fun, riding in an off-road vehicle with her boyfriend, Mason Larkins, when the accident occurred and changed her life forever.

"We were both life-flighted to UPMC Presbyterian, where I would spend the next four days in the ICU on life support. While I was in surgery to have rods placed in my broken legs, a blood clot formed in my carotid artery. The blood clot travelled to my brain, causing a right-sided, middle cerebral artery (MCA) stroke that paralyzed my left side."

Kaylee would remain hospitalized for the next 17 days at UPMC before she was finally stable enough to move to an in-patient rehabilitation center. She would spend the next two months learning how to walk again, along with many other rehab skills.

"I was only given a 50% chance of living from the brain surgery and a 25% chance of leading a normal life. With the grace of God and the love of my family, I beat all of the odds and actually made it out of rehab in half the time the doctors had predicted. I truly couldn’t have done this without the overwhelming support of my close-knit family. My parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, friends, and boyfriend made sure I never spent a minute alone."

Miraculously, Kaylee only missed one semester of college. By spring 2018, she was enrolled full-time, mostly online. "I was very fortunate to not obtain any mental deficits from my traumatic brain injury (TBI). With hard work and determination, I overcame this adversity and continued to excel in my classes."

Kaylee is also very appreciative of her classmates in the Middle Education program. "Looking back, I truly couldn’t have made it through college without the help of my friends and classmates. Emilee Weaver, Cat Sloan, Haleigh Black, and Janelle Bilyeu all went above and beyond to help me. They drove me to school, gave me their notes, and were always there for me. I am so fortunate for their friendship and know they are each going to make great teachers because of the care and love they gave me."

Kaylee is also looking forward to getting her teaching career started. She has already had a couple of job interviews and hopes to land a full-time job in the fall.

"I will enter the classroom as a young teacher that is full of confidence as a result of my preparation at the Eastern Campus, and I would like to recognize Dr. Yahn, Associate Professor of Instruction Kim Ciroli, Associate Professor of English Dr. Pamela June and Associate Professor Emeritus of English Dr. Flynn for their wonderful efforts."

"In particular, Mrs. Ciroli’s resonating message about the importance of special education really had an impact on me. It definitely feels more personal now that I am ‘disabled.’ I aspire to become an intervention specialist to help students, like myself, overcome any obstacle, even a disability."

"In closing, I am absolutely happy with my experience with OHIO Eastern and highly recommend it to everyone, without reservation."

Kaylee is the daughter of Ryan and Sara Vitek. She has two younger sisters, Emma and Sophia.