Maggie Heafner has come a long way since she was born 13 weeks premature with little chance to live.
â€œIt makes me think Iâ€™ve been put here for a purpose because it would have been so easy for me to die and I didnâ€™t,â€ said Maggie.
The high school senior is now the proud winner of a state wide Exceptional Childrenâ€™s Assistance Center (ECAC) scholarship.
Maggie, who has cerebral palsy, competed against 98 students for the $1,000 scholarship.
She didnâ€™t know she was a winner until the scholarship was announced at West Lincoln High Schoolâ€™s award ceremony.
â€œI skimmed the program three or four times to see if I saw my award,â€ said Maggie. â€œI didnâ€™t see it. I must have skimmed over it.â€
Maggieâ€™s parents and teachers kept the scholarship a secret for weeks.
â€œMom said it was the hardest thing she ever had to do,â€ said Maggie.
The scholarship came after the ECAC received several letters of recommendation.
â€œItâ€™s easy to say good things about her,â€ said Linda Hacker, the schoolâ€™s senior counselor. â€œMaggieâ€™s a person that you get to know easily. Sheâ€™s just very personable.â€
The award ends a difficult year for Maggie who had two surgeries to help with her disability.
In August she received Intrathecal Baclofen Thereapy (IBT) which allowed her body to become less stiff.
â€œFor the first time in my life I didnâ€™t have to fight with my own body,â€ said Maggie.
Maggieâ€™s premature birth left her with cerebral palsy which made her body so stiff that she was unable to tie her own shoes.
Now she can walk with the aid of crutches and drive a car.
â€œI take a lot of things as a challenge. I strive to do everything I can do,â€ said Maggie. â€œSometimes that upsets people.â€
Prior to using crutches Maggie used a walker. Some members of her family wanted her to use an electric wheelchair, but Maggie would have none of it.
â€œI think what they want is for me to have it easy,â€ she said.
Last winter Maggie was faced with another medical problem. Water was building up in her brain, a result of hydrocephalus, a condition she has had since she was a baby.
She had to have a 16-year-old shunt replaced in her brain in order to stop her constant sickness.
â€œI couldnâ€™t be scared because I was so sick, I didnâ€™t care what they did. I just wanted to get better,â€ Maggie said.
Throughout her medical struggles over the past year Maggie has received high grades in Advanced Placement classes.
She has also spoken to doctors at workshops about the IBT therapy she has received.
Her efforts have been rewarded with a total of four scholarships and acceptance to Lenior-Rhyne College in Hickory.
Maggie believes her family is more nervous than she is about her leaving home.
At Lenior-Rhyne, Maggie plans to receive a bachelors degree in human and community services. After she graduates she wants to pursue a masters in rehabilitation counseling.
She hopes to help people who have been in similar situations as herself.
She remembers a time not too long ago when she was bedridden and feeling hopeless.
â€œI just kind of laid there and thought â€˜Why in the world am I here? This is kind of stupid,â€™â€ she said.
Since her realization Maggie has made an effort to make life easier for those with disabilities.
â€œI realized God had a plan and a purpose,â€ she said. â€œNo person is a mistake. Not a single person.â€
Maggie starts college in the fall, and those who know her have high hopes.
â€œSheâ€™s going to do great things,â€ said Connie Hawkins, director of the ECAC. â€œShe is an outstanding young woman.â€by Sarah Grano