Belton: Teen paralyzed in school bus crash walks in graduation

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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) A Belton high school senior has defied odds and exceeded expectations after a school bus accident left her paralyzed from the waist down.

(Photo by Kristen Victorin)

Five years later she graduated from Belton High School Thursday night and walked across the stage.

In a graduating class of 612, Haley Johannsen is an inspiration.

"It’s kind of hard to talk about but I've come so far,” she said. “And I'm just really proud of myself but it's hard to believe just how far I've come.”

In January of 2012, when she was 14 and a student in the Little River-Academy ISD, a Lowe’s delivery truck crashed into her school bus.

The accident claimed the life of the bus driver and left 29 students injured including Johannsen, who suffered a broken back that left her paralyzed from the waist down.

""I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not I'm going to walk or I'm going to roll across the stage but then I finally made up my decision,” Johannsen said.

And with all her family and school's support she made it happen.

"She’s been a special part of our Belton high school campus and we're just really proud of her,” Belton ISD Superintendent Susan Kincannon said.

Post-graduation Johannsen plans to train her horses at home as she continues to ride and also train her puppy Dixie to be a service dog by October.

She also plans to spend time with those who have supported her over the years.

"I appreciate them and I couldn't have done it without them,” she said.

Johannsen said she left the decision to walk across the graduation stage as a surprise for much of her family.