© Jason Kerr
Grade 12 SCCHS student Kayley Lawrenz shared her story with her school mates during a special presentation on May 30.
It’s not uncommon to see a Grade 12 student studying over noon hour, especially a student with dreams of going to university.
Kayley Lawrenz plans to attend the University of Saskatchewan after high school, but this noon hour, she’s reading over different types of notes for a presentation a student won’t normally give in a classroom.
Lawrenz lost the ability to walk after a roll over in 2012 left her in a wheelchair. A former dancer, soccer and baseball player, Lawrenz suddenly had difficulty with basic tasks most people take for granted.
It’s a tragic story, and on Friday, she shared it with her peers as part of a Students Against Drunk Driving and RCMP Drunk Driving Awareness Day.
“I just hope they realize they’re in control of (their lives),” Lawrenz said after her presentation to a full cafeteria. “Whether or not they want to do it (drink and drive), it’s their choice.”
For Lawrenz, life is defined by choices, but some are more important than others. She wants her peers to be able to identify important choices, like whether to text or drink while driving, or simply speed.
“I want them to see what can happen when they decide to do that,” she said. “Even though it (the accident) had nothing to do with drinking and driving, I’ve seen so many cases where they’re exactly like me and it’s because of that reason.”
Despite a long and painful recovery, which was amplified by her inability to talk for a time after her accident, Lawrenz is at ease discussing it. She was blunt, but compassionate, when she shared her experience in the hospital and rehabilitation. Her earnestness shined through, with very little bitterness accompanying it.
In a way, she said the accident helped her realize what was important in life, and she wants others to hear that message while avoiding her experience.
“When you’re in high school friends are so important to you and doing all these different things and being popular,” she said. “The reality is it’s not that important in the spectrum of life. So many kids do all these stupid things that they think are going to make them cooler and they don’t realize that it’s going to hurt them.”
"So many kids do all these stupid things that they think are going to make them cooler and they don’t realize that it’s going to hurt them.” Kayley Lawrenz
There are a lot of negatives in her story, and while Lawrenz didn’t shy away from them she didn’t wallow in them either. She said there are some good things that came out of the accident, like a better relationship with her family.
However, the negatives are always front and centre, and she wants to turn that into a positive by using her experience to help others.
“My friends often get lectures,” she said with a chuckle.
Her positive outlook and willingness to share her story isn’t lost on her listeners, either.
“The one thing that got me was how she couldn’t trust people after the accident because some people started phasing out of her life,” SCCHS student and SADD co-president Dylan Griffin said. “That kind of hit me because I didn’t think it affected that many people. Everything she went through just got to me.”
“I can tell (students) over and over and over not to make reckless decisions,” SCCHS teacher and SADD supervisor Sarah McDonald added. “When an adult is saying it, it goes in one ear and out the other. Having a peer say it, especially someone such as Kayley, who has experienced a life altering crash, they’re going to listen more to her than they would to any adult.”
That platform is another positive Lawrenz hopes to take advantage of. She said she always wanted to be a motivational speaker, and her accident has only made that desire stronger.
“The first time I did (spoke), the way I impacted the kids, it was a feeling that I hadn’t felt in so long,” she remembered. The things that used to fulfill that feeling that I couldn’t do anymore, this did and I just felt so good about the fact that I was really making kids think.”