Overcoming Obstacles: Miner makes emotional return to school

RANGELY — There’s a feeling of excitement associated with the first day of school.
New classes. New teachers.
For Celena Miner, the first day of school represented a new beginning.
Miner, a senior at Rangely High School, joined her fellow students for the opening of classes last Thursday. It was an emotional day for her.
“I’m really happy to be back,” Miner said. “But some things are depressing.”
Miner, 17, suffered a spinal injury in a car accident May 13 and is paralyzed from the waist down. Her younger brother, Micheal, 14, was in the car at the time, but suffered only minor injuries.
“If I think about it, it was not too long ago I was walking in these halls,” Miner said.
Now, she travels from class to class in a wheelchair. Her sister, Paulla, 16, helps her get around.
After a three-month stay in a rehabilitation hospital in Denver, Miner returned home Aug. 19, two days before the start of school.
Her goal all along was to start and finish the school year with her classmates. She pushed herself at the rehabilitation center, in order to be back in time for the start of classes.
“They (doctors) told me if I wasn’t ready to come home, they wouldn’t send me home,” she said. “I worked really hard, so I could go home. It was tiring, but I looked forward to physical therapy the most, because I knew it would help me (return home).”
She will continue to do physical therapy.
Staying upbeat, while in the hospital, wasn’t easy.
“It got really hard to stay positive,” Miner said. “At first, I felt like I needed to stay strong for everybody. After awhile, I gave up on that.”
Coming home was a mixture of excitement and uncertainty for Miner. She didn’t know what to expect.
“I was really nervous at first, but once we got into town, I couldn’t wait to see all my friends,” she said.
While in the hospital, Miner stayed in touch with friends through the Internet and talking on the phone.
Still, she was nervous about the first day of school.
“I was kind of afraid of the questions I might get,” she said. “But they’ve been really good. I didn’t get as many questions as I thought I might. They were just glad to see me.”
Miner doesn’t like talking about what happened.
“Questions about my injury, about the accident, it’s kind of a sore subject,” she said. “Once I start talking about it, I get all teary.”
Nicole Walker, first-year principal at Rangely High School, said Miner’s classmates have been understanding and supportive.
“I think her transition here has been very smooth,” Walker said. “The kids have welcomed her with open arms. They missed her and are glad she’s back.”
Walker said the school’s staff worked with the Craig Rehabilitation Center in Denver to find out what they would need to do to accommodate Miner’s needs.
“We had a meeting with all of her teachers,” Walker said. “The good thing is all of the teachers knew her. She’s fit back in great.”
Walker said the school staff, while trying to make Miner feel comfortable being back in school, has treated her like a regular student.
“We didn’t want to change anything because she was coming back in a wheelchair,” Walker said. “When she came back, she wasn’t any different from anyone else. She was still Celena.”