Two San Diego teenagers who overcame incredible odds after enduring separate tragic accidents went from recovery to royalty when they were crowned homecoming king and queen at their high school.
Cathedral Catholic High School (CCHS) students Taylor Cunningham and Ronin Nelson were dubbed king and queen in front of their friends and fellow students on Friday night.
For both, the road to homecoming court has been rough, filled with obstacles that most teenagers would never anticipate.
Nelson, who’s been the inspiring twelfth man on the sidelines all season, suffered a major collision on the rugby field last year that crushed his spine and left him paralyzed from the chest down.
Still, the teen remains positive and determined.
“Anything is possible. Don’t get down on yourself,” said Nelson.
The homecoming king’s hopeful attitude doesn’t go unnoticed by fellow students.
“[He’s taught us to] never give up, no matter what life throws at you. You can always get back up, and Ronin is the very definition of that,” said CCHS student Patrick Irvine.
For her part, Cunningham has also fought back from tragedy against all odds. The teen has sat out dance and after dance, but on Friday night it was finally her turn.
On the night of Mar. 17, Cunningham was severely injured when a suspected drunk driver traveling the wrong way on State Route 52 slammed his car head-on into a minivan occupied by Cunningham, her mother and her two little sisters.
The Cunningham family members were all transported to local hospitals with multiple serious injuries – deep wounds that have taken six months to heal and counting.
After spending 17 days in a coma and a total of 75 days in the hospital, Taylor Cunningham’s friends feared the teen would never walk again.
Now, they marvel at her recovery.
“Her attitude, every day, is amazing,” said best friend Hannah Gilliland. “It’s just inspired me to keep a good attitude and outlook on everything.”
Though both teens experienced different hardships, their courage and optimism connects them – both on and off the homecoming field.
“I’m always positive and it really comes in handy,” said Cunningham. “It’s been really hard, but everything is doable.”
“Recovering has been really, really hard but at the same time, I know I’m getting to a better place,” said Nelson. “All of my friends and the community have given me so much motivation to be able to get to where I am now. It’s hard, but I have to do it.”
“Even if you are physically disabled or mentally disabled – any kind of handicap – you’re able to do anything. Anything is possible. Don’t get down on yourself, really,” Nelson added.
The reigning king and queen both have big plans after high school.
Nelson said his passion is international business, while Cunningham has dreams of dancing and performing on Broadway.
Whatever path they take, the teenagers are determined to give their all and do what they do best: stay positive.