From battling leukemia to overcoming a lack of a permanent home, two of Greenwood Community High School’s graduating seniors have had to overcome more than homework and exams to get where they are today.
In celebration of their achievements, and those of all of Greenwood’s graduates, we’re sharing their stories.
Cooper Davis was diagnosed with leukemia in his spine at 11 years old. The cancer took him out of classrooms for all of sixth grade, half of seventh grade and some of eighth grade, as he underwent a total of 52 blood transfusions while receiving treatment at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.
The cancer caused 10 fractures in his spine, which have thankfully fully healed with the exception of a few compressions, Davis said.
“We weren’t super threatened with life or death, but there were a few situations with close calls,” he said.
Along with the years-long barrage of medical procedures, chemotherapy and other treatments, Davis faced the challenge of missing school and social opportunities that came with being a kid. But the community, along with a few close friends from Southwest Elementary School, rallied around him, more than he ever would have expected, Davis said.
“My initial group of friends was really supportive the whole way,” he said. “They started fundraisers, selling merchandise with my name on it. Greenwood Little League had a baseball team named after me. The community helped me out in a situation where I needed it.”
Throughout treatment, teachers stopped by the hospital and his house for tutoring and to give him his assignments.
“It was really cool, just realizing how much people made it a priority to help me out at that time,” Davis said. “There was so many amazing things, so many gifts and messages, ‘you’re doing great,’ ‘keep it up.’ The support throughout was amazing and it was so cool to be able to witness that first hand and see so many people who didn’t know each other, not only in Indiana, but other places as well, helping me out and wanting to make other people knowledgeable about my situation. It was so cool people were willing to help that much.”
After two years of treatments, Davis’ cancer was in remission. He remains in good health.
Davis plans to go into the workforce as he pursues a career in law enforcement. His graduation Friday was something he at one time thought might not be possible.
“When I was in the heart of treatment, I didn’t know if it was a possibility for me. To look back at myself, stuff seemed really down at the time, but it all worked out fine. It’s great to know everything played out how it was supposed to,” Davis said. “I’m excited for the future and what it holds for me. I’m glad I was able to complete this chapter of my life.”
When Shawn Wilson crossed the stage to get his diploma Friday, it marked a moment of accomplishment in a life that has been filled with so much instability.
Wilson’s constant moves — Greenwood High School was the last of three high schools he attended — made his life uncertain and put a strain on his ability to form friendships, Wilson said.
“My first two years were at North Central High School, and on that side I was living with my grandmother. My mom was unable to take care of us,” Wilson said. “I moved in with my dad and attended GEO Next Generation High School on the east side of Indianapolis. It’s a charter school and then in the middle of junior year I was kicked out by my mother, moved in with my sixth grade teacher and continued my education at Greenwood High School.”
Wilson has been moving around most of his life. He estimates the number of schools he’s attended to be at least a dozen, which made forming a social circle close to impossible.
“Some people have friends for decades. I have none of those. I really started swaying away from friendships because I didn’t know if I would have to move to another city,” Wilson said. “One bad thing was not being able to make any long-term friends, but it taught me to adapt and make friends anywhere, even if it’s not long term.”
Although Wilson got used to adjusting to new environments, it was never easy.
“Moving to Greenwood was the most different, it felt like moving to a whole new city,” he said. “When I came here I didn’t know anyone and had to get connections for school projects. It was very difficult moving. I felt like a stranger to everyone and adapting to a new environment was the hardest for me.”
Wilson said he owes his life to his sixth grade teacher, who he stayed in touch with after leaving middle school and who picked him up at midnight the night his mother kicked him out of her house. Without her, he likely wouldn’t be a graduate, he said.
“She does not let me give up. I have been so close to giving up multiple times this year,” Wilson said. “I had the choice to give up. I am 19 years old and I could’ve withdrawn and gotten my G.E.D. before the year even started, but she’s one of those people who really motivated me to keep going.”
Wilson will attend the United States Air Force Academy, and after completing basic training, wants to go into teaching or comedy, he said.