Minnesota Teen 'Beats the Odds', Turns Tragedy into Triumph

March 08, 2018 10:32 PM

A Minnesota high school senior is looking forward to a future she knows was never guaranteed.

On July 1, 2014, Amarya Ward-West's father crashed into a missing section of pavement in St. Paul and ran from the scene, leaving then-14-year-old Amarya and her younger brother Almond hurt, helpless and alone.


5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has followed Amarya's recovery for years now.

RELATED: Minneapolis Teen Paralyzed in Crash on the Road to Recovery

One year after returning home from the hospital, she said she didn't want to plan her future because her life had been too unpredictable.

But a lot has changed since then.

Today, Amarya refuses to let the accident dictate who she is or who she's determined to become.

"I guess it kind of made me more assertive, in a way," the now senior at Hopkins High School said.

RELATED: Teen Returns Home after St. Paul Car Accident

She's one of five remarkable students in the Twin Cities receiving the Beat the Odds scholarship awarded by the Children's Defense Fund. Students are nominated by those close to them who have watched them overcome hardships in their lives.

Two-hundred students applied.

"I think all of them have an amazing amount of courage and determination and hope for a brighter future," said Bharti Wahi, executive director of the Children's Defense Fund Minnesota.

"I've kind of always been driven," Amarya said.

The teenager is humble and quiet, but also fierce and compassionate. And for the first time since her injury, she gets to make her own plan, find her independence and take a break from her protective little brother.

"I'm always around her and we always stick together," said Almond, now 12.

Amarya is looking forward to college in the fall and wants to become a psychiatrist.

"I kind of just thought it would be cool to learn about how other people think," she said.

The Children's Defense Fund has awarded more than 300 scholarships over the past 26 years. Amarya will get $5,000 to go toward the college of her choice, a new computer and some necessary freshman year supplies like sheets and towels.

She also gets her face on a Wheaties box.

She's already been accepted to the University of Minnesota, but right now she wants to go to Augsburg. 

After that, she hopes to be on to medical school.



Katherine Johnson

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