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Cap and gown bound: Columbine senior fights through surgeries, pain to finish on top

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By Deborah Swearingen

Editor’s note: This is the third story in a series honoring impressive graduates across South Jeffco. Throughout May, we will profile one senior a week from Dakota Ridge High School, Chatfield Senior High School, D’Evelyn Jr/Sr High School and Columbine High School.

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Amanda Brown’s story is one of determination.

For most of her life, Brown, an 18-year-old senior at Columbine High School, experienced severe back pain and chronic migraines. She tried braces and medications, but nothing seemed to work. At 13, doctors found a fracture in her lower back that required surgery.

Because of the surgery, she was in and out of school, completing some online schooling before returning to Columbine for her sophomore year. Despite returning to school, sickness recurred as her body worked to adjust to other people and their germs. Her grades plummeted because she continued to miss a lot of school.

The journey certainly was not always easy, but after battling years of sickness and pain, a light switched for Brown. She pledged to make school a priority. She committed to her own success and set challenging goals. She learned to communicate with Columbine staff and loaded her schedule with extra classes and summer school to compensate for missed days and failed classes.

“Really, we put together a plan, and she just started executing the plan in a way that most kids don’t,” said counselor Andrew Lentini. “She really overcame a lot.”

With hard work and dedication, she boosted her GPA in two years time. As a result, she will soon move to the west slope to attend Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.

“I think it was triumph,” Lentini said.

Experiencing pain often made Brown wonder: “Why me?” But she reconciled with the fact that with time, it would get easier.

“It will get better eventually. It can’t be this bad all the time,” Brown told herself during hard times. “It will always get better. You just have to work it out.”

Furthermore, she learned to be herself and stop overthinking — whether the overthinking stemmed from schoolwork or friendships or life in general.

And through it all, she relied a lot on her family. They were a constant source of positivity and strength.

“They’re a huge support system,” she said.

Every step of the way, Brown’s mother, Laura, has been there.

“I can’t be more proud,” Laura said, choking up.

“Amanda has overcome challenges that no child should ever have to experience,” she later said. “My tears are that of pride and sorrow. I would have given anything to have given her a more ‘normal’ path in her life.”

Brown is not sure where life will take her, but both of her potential career paths — either a nurse or a math teacher — stem from a desire to help others the way that so many helped her.

After her back surgery, Brown interacted with a variety of nurses. Some made a positive impression; others not so much.

“I just kind of want to be a good experience for some kids that are going through some stuff like I had,” she said.

However, recently, Brown discovered an affinity for math and decided she may want to become a teacher to make it easier on high school students who struggle with the subject.

Either way, Lentini has faith.

“In my mind, she’s undoubtedly going to meet her goals for her career,” he said.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.