FORT MYERS, Fla. — On April 8, 2022, the life of a Fort Myers High School senior changed in seconds. Khalia Carter was hit by a drunk driver on a motorcycle, forcing her to learn how to do things that may be simple for us.
One year later, she is back at her high school, surprising a student who touched Carter and her family's hearts with an essay about an issue that they have devoted so much time.
"To say the least, from where she came from, Khalia is doing so good," said Shawnda Cook, Khalia's mom. "We are blessed and we are here today."
Blessed to have Khalia with the family after suffering a traumatic brain injury from the crash. "I was down the road from my house, and I was about to make it and then I didn’t," Carter said.
Carter is thriving today and is looking past what happened by celebrating someone else on Tuesday night.
"This was just meant to be that this award ceremony was happening on the same day as the accident," Cook said.
A senior, sitting in the audience, didn't know her essay about drunk driving would make such an impact of Khalia and her family.
"My mom read it and she was crying, so that’s when I knew her essay was the one to pick," Carter said.
They awarded the $1,000 scholarship to Sa'nya Battle, a varsity cheerleader. The two knew each other when Carter was on the team before her crash.
"She helped me with homework all the time," Carter said.
The essay talked about Battle's journey with driving and how drunk driving can be prevented.
"At the time I am writing this, I am in a vulnerable spot, just as I was when finding out what happened to Khalia. As we grow older, we want freedom. Some sort of freedom. That freedom mostly starts with driving, driving on your own," Battle said in the essay. "I experienced my first car accident start when I started driving and no matter how small it was, it was truly one of the scariest moments of my life without it being nowhere near a near-death experience such as hers." Battle said that writing the essay is near and dear to her heart.
"The impact of her movement is insane," Battle said. "It's crazy that it’s happening and it’s going to continue to happen if we don’t keep stopping it."
Stopping moments that can change the future for people like Carter and her family.
But those moments are shaping the bright teenager into a young woman with a future ahead as she continues to study journalism in Georgia.
"Anybody who has gone through that has a purpose in this world, and she definitely has a purpose in this world," Cook said. "If you decide to drink, please do not get behind the wheel and drive."
Carter says she is going to award a senior a scholarship to a varsity cheerleader every year.
"I’m grateful and blessed to be here to tell my story to all of you guys today," Carter said.
As for the drunk driver, he pleaded guilty to DUI and was sentenced to 12 months probation, a six-month ignition interlock, a year without a license, and other consequences, though no jail time.
Since December 6th, when the driver was sentenced, they have received two tickets: one for driving on a suspended or revoked license and reckless driving.