CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – For the past six years – that’s 18 semesters – Donna Bailey has worked harder than most to complete her degree. Bailey, who is also a graduate of Del Mar College, originally enrolled at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in 1999 but when a severe accident left her paralyzed from the neck down, she knew she couldn’t stop living her life.
“I was on my way to go rock climbing as a mentor for the organization Youth Odyssey when I was in a rollover accident,” she shared. “I woke up in a hospital not being able to move anything, but I knew I had to have the courage to come back to school because education is important to me intrinsically.”
Bailey, who is confined to a wheelchair and must use the assistance of a ventilator, plans to finally “roll across” the stage on Saturday, Dec. 16 during the 10 a.m. fall 2017 Commencement Ceremony and receive her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with a minor in Sports Marketing. A degree she says she didn’t pursue for herself but one she sought to serve as a mentor and example for other students attending the Island University.
“I am a mentor. That’s what I’ve always done, and that’s what I do – it’s the gift inside me,” said Bailey. “I’m here on campus so the students can personally see that in everyone’s lives there will be struggles, but that if I can get through them so can they.”
Bailey said her biggest struggle with going back to school was no longer being able to write or take notes during class.
“I learn by writing,” she explained. “I didn’t think I could do this without being able to write.”
With the support of Martha Aguas, Valerie Lopez and Mary Lopez, Bailey’s full-time attendants and nurses, she chipped away at her classes, often taking one-to-two at a time. Dr. Randy Bonnette, a Professor of Kinesiology and long-time friend, has helped Bailey arrange her courses over the past six years to make sure she would be able to graduate.
“I met Donna in 1998 when I first moved to Corpus Christi and was working part-time at Del Mar Community College and before her accident,” shared Bonnette. “So when she called me six years ago about wanting to finish her degree, I was so excited that she was going to continue her education and become an Islander.”
Even though her progress has been slow and steady, Bailey says she has had a great time on campus.
“I had way more fun than I was supposed to have,” she smiled as she shared her campus experiences. “People are super friendly on campus, the students were great and the professors are very helpful.”
Finding it easy to make friends and enjoying her time on campus, Bailey said she is proud to finally become an A&M-Corpus Christi graduate. Not only will Bailey graduate from the Island University but she also comes from a family of Islander Alumni including her father who graduated from Corpus Christi State University in 1981 and her daughter who graduated in 2006.
Now that she is nearing graduation, Bailey has one piece of advice to share with her fellow graduates and all Islanders.
“I know that you all are very capable. Fly to the stars and do the things you want to do, fulfill your dreams,” she said. “I know both of my children did exactly what they wanted to do with their lives and I believe in each one of you.”