With tears in her eyes, Copperas Cove High School senior Margaret Matney, 17, could barely speak as she accepted her award Jan. 10 during a Noon Exchange Club luncheon.
“When I took the ACE award, oh my gosh, I just started crying,” she said. “It was very surprising and emotional.”
The Ace award, short for “Accepting the Challenge of Excellence,” is given to outstanding high school students who have overcome great physical, emotional or social obstacles and are now eligible for high school graduation.
On Oct. 16, 2012, Matney was a passenger in a truck that was hit broadside by a vehicle whose driver was intoxicated and ran a stop sign. Matney was thrown approximately 20 feet from the truck, nearly taking her life and sending her into a three-day coma.
After regaining consciousness, she remained in the hospital for a month before being released. However, Matney’s struggles were just beginning.
“It took three months to get her back talking and walking,” said Margaret Matney’s mother, Anita Matney. “She was at home for homebound schooling for those three months.”
Another hard blow for the teen came when doctors concluded she sustained a diffused axonal brain injury, causing partial memory loss. By January 2013, she was allowed to return to the high school, but the loss of memory made simple tasks, like learning, harder for her.
“I had problems in Algebra II, because I couldn’t remember a lot of what I used to know,” she said. “I failed a lot and I had to redo my second semester.”
However, Matney was determined and decided to persevere and pushed herself harder in order to gain some type of normalcy.
“I really went for all of my good grades, because after my car accident I just wanted to make the best out of what I could do,” she said. “I didn’t want to be put in special classes so I tried to outdo myself.”
Copperas Cove High School 12th-grade counselor RoShon Jackson wrote a letter to the Noon Exchange about Matney’s recovery efforts. Jackson described her as more than a survivor.
“Margaret’s general attitude towards all of her subjects and school remained positive. She has done more than survive,” Jackson said. “Since the accident, for the first time, she looks forward to going to school and graduation. Her overall average for all subjects has increased this year by over seven GPA points and her class rank has risen also.”
Anita Matney said it’s been a long road for her daughter, but the work is paying off.
“She’s been working very, very hard,” Anita Matney said. “She’s going to be graduating and going on to culinary arts school in Austin.”