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Community of Spoto Rallies Behind Girl Who Suffered Traumatic Brain Injury

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Posted on March 9, 2015

When the people of Spoto found out about the unforeseen car accident on Lee Roy Selmon Expressway that left Tyra Janelle Brown, 18, fighting for her life, they came together for the cause. Brown suffered a traumatic brain injury that left her in a catatonic state, as her parked car, according to Florida Highway Patrol, was struck by another vehicle. She rode with Makayla Anne Harrell and Brittany O. Jackson early on January 11, when the car needed to be curbed due to a flat tire. As they waited for AAA, alongside the interstate, a driver lost control of his car and hit the girls. Although all three of the girls were injured in the accident, only Tyra Brown’s injuries were life threatening.

By word of mouth of Brown’s harrowing condition, three-quarters of the 1,400 students that make up Spoto High School gathered around the school’s flagpole on a solemn Monday morning last month in her honor. After the short ceremonial pause, the students made their way back to class.

“Not one student was late to class,” said Spoto math teacher Wendy Smith, fighting back tears. “I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ve taught since 1980.”

“Tyra is a wonderful, wonderful student,” said Smith, who has taught Brown for three years and spoke on behalf of her family. “She’s a wonderful girl, a wonderful role model. She’s just great. The kids all like her.”

Through her rather prolific high school career, Brown captained the cheerleading squad, served in student government, and became a member of the National Honor Society. In her sparse free time, she even visited with some of the students affected by autism, at times dancing with them. By the time of her accident, she had gained admission to the University of South Florida and University of Central Florida, planning to eventually become a pediatric nurse.

The incident has undoubtedly affected the school, but most importantly, it has brought strain to her family. Her single mother, Cynthia Leeks, Frost Elementary School teacher, has already used all her sick days sitting at her daughter’s bed. Teachers at Spoto and Frost are trying to give their sick days to Cynthia. Now, Tyra has been moved to Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, a hospital that specializes in spinal cord and brain injuries. Unfortunately, the hospital can only provide Cynthia an apartment for thirty days. So, in accordance to the altruistic nature at Spoto High School, the students have organized spirit nights at local restaurants and a 5k run to raise money.

“They don’t know what to do but they want to do something, anything,” Smith said. “They’re special kids. They don’t understand why this has happened.”

Source: Tampa Bay Times