Brand new journey has begun

Saucier is a Davidson Wildcat
Aug. 24, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Surrounded by the love and support of her parents and friends, Hannah Saucier has moved to Davidson College to begin her undergraduate studies.

A dream has come true for the 18-year old Rutherfordton woman, which is also being shared by college freshmen across Rutherford County.

 A graduate of Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy, Hannah remembers in great detail the day she learned she was accepted to Davidson, her first choice of colleges. 

She was riding in the family van with her parents, Steve and Mia Saucier, on Dec. 15, 2012, headed to Winston-Salem for a school academic team competition.

Davidson was releasing the names of the new students at 10 a.m. that day.

Since Hannah wasn’t home to receive her letter in the mail she had her iphone in her hand during the ride. At the hour of discovery, she began to check the phone.

“I could hear her hit refresh, refresh, refresh,” her dad said. “And then I looked in the back seat and she was crying. What happened? I asked her,” Steve said.

Hannah couldn’t speak for a moment and then, with a flood of tears, told her parents, “I’m in.”

Then was was great jublilation and celebration in the car.

As soon as the academic competition was over, the Sauciers drove over to Davidson where at the school store they purchased Davidson College parapharnalia, including the red Davidson flag that has flown outside their Rutherfordton home since December.

They also bought a lot of Davidson Christmas gifts for the family. “We spent way too much money,” Steve admitted, but it was a day representing sheer delight and goals reached.

The Sauciers couldn’t be happier for Hannah, yet the fact their only child has left the comforts of home, is pretty overwhelming.

Hannah is nervous too.

“Everybody’s nervous,” Hannah said.

As with most college students, Hannah has spent the past few months preparing for this weekend. Her parents have also been preparing themselves for the move and the empty nest.

Hannah and Mia went shopping and bought white and purple bedding for her cream color painted dorm room and everything else she needs for her home away from home.

“Like everybody else,” Hannah said. “I’m in a dorm room.”

Unlike others, she will have 24 hour, 7 day care. 

Six years ago when Hannah was 12 years old she dove into a swimming pool at a friend’s house and sustained a traumatic spinal cord injury. She is paraplegic after injuring the vertebrae C5, C6 and part of C7.

Following weeks and months of hospital stays and rehabilitation at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Ga., Hannah began a different way of living and remain on target today.

Hannah can do some things for herself, such a eating, brushing her teeth, using her computer/electronics and combing her hair. 

Insurance and Medicaid are funding her 24/7 care, which was also a plan from the the time Hannah was preparing to go to college.

At Davidson, Hannah will become involved with social activities, attend the football games and study. She is looking forward to the college community environment.

 “I want to grow as a person. That’s what college is all about,” Hannah said. “I am making myself get out of my comfort zone and I am so excited about learning in general.”

Having the second highest academic score at Thomas Jefferson wasn’t easy for Hannah, but she’s a determined person, Steve said.

“I feel very prepared to go to college,” Hannah said. She said her preparation began at Rutherfordton Elementary School where she received her educational foundation and continued through Thomas Jefferson.

“She has her mind set to do well in college, she had her mind made up to receive high school awards, she wanted to be valedictorian and she wanted to go to a high end college, “ Steve said.

Her friend, Darby Williams, was valedictorian at TJCA, and is also attending Davidson. Another friend, Dustin Atchley, an R-S Central graduate is there.

“She has always gone with clarity of purpose and she works her butt off.  At 1 a.m., she is still up with a light on studying. She’s a work alcoholic,” Steve said.

Steve said it’s been their duty as parents to remove any barriers standing in Hannah’s way to go to college.

 “But she had to move through them. She did the sweat equity.”  “It’s a constant battle to make sure she has what she needs,” Steve said.

“ Hannah’s barriers aren’t physical,” Steve continued. “It’s her commitment and her determination to get from Point A to Point F. It’s about her commitment to be determined.” 

“I’m estatic and overjoyed that she has this opportunity to come to Davidson. I am really happy,” Mia said from Hannah’s dorm room Friday where they were unpacking. “This is a perfect fit for her and she has felt at home here since the first day she came on campus. This was a goal of hers and she accomplished that. It’s a dream come true.”Mia echoed Steve’s comments of their daughter’s determination. 

“She has worked for this all throughout high school and she wanted to get into a really good school,” Mia said.

Although Hannah visited other campuses, she always came back with Davidson on her mind.

“It was never a question whether or not Hannah would go to college.  She has so much to offer,” Steve said. “It would have been unfair to her if she hadn’t gone to college.”

Fundamentally, “none of this would have been possible without her mother,” Steve said.

“Not just the physical side, but she’s also been my mother. She’s my mom,” Hannah said. “She could train nurses.

“And she could train other mothers who are in situations like this,” Steve said.

 “I will have lasting relationships with some of the students and teachers from Hannah has a core of good friends who have gone on to different colleges but there are plans to skype.

A friend from first grade is still her best friend and a second grade friend is among the core of close friends.  All along her journey she has made friends. 

“This group of kids have stuck with her since the accident. They never abandoned her,” Steve said.

Hannah doesn’t drive a car so when she and her friends wanted to go out while in high school,  they drove their cars to the Saucier home and parked them.

 “They would get in the van, one of them would drive and they go out,” Steve said.

Hannah has three wrist bands on her motorized wheelchair. One is from high school, one is a peace arm band and the other, the New Orleans Saints. From Louisiana, Hannah is a dire hard Saints fan and is excited to be able watch them with friends at Davidson. 

She is going to study neuroscience/pyschology and her goal is to get her masters degree and later a doctorate degree. Some day she believes she’ll work in the field of brain behavior research. 

Her field of study was not prompted by her injury.

  “But in the past two years, I knew I wanted to study the brain. There is such little knowledge of the brain and behaviors,” she said.

While classes begin for Hannah on Monday, her parents will be back in their routines. Steve, the first executive director of KidSenses museum in Rutherfordton, is executive director at Grassroots Science Musuem and Mia is an Ellenboro Elementary School third grade teacher.

The couple agree if they’re shedding tears, they are from being so overwhelmed and grateful. Their daughter’s dream of college has come true and life is moving on.

A brand new journey has begun.