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August 16, 2014

COURAGE ON CAMPUS: Paralyzed USC student Martha Childress returns to campus after tragedy

Few names are as well known at the University of South Carolina as Martha Childress.

Few names are as well known at the University of South Carolina as Martha Childress.

The 19-year-old begins her sophomore year this week. And for the first time in months, this semester, she’ll be studying on campus with her classmates.

It’ll be for the first time since she was shot and paralyzed by what police say was a stray bullet in Five Points in October 2013. She finished that semester and her spring semester by taking classes online from her family’s home in Simpsonville.

“I try to have a positive outlook on each day and be grateful for each day because my life could have been taken away so easily,” Childress told The State newspaper in March. “I just have to learn at some point just to let go and forgive for what happened and move on with my life.”

A strong support system in Columbia and months of preparation have made it easier for Childress’ family to see her go back to school, her mother, Pam Childress Johnson, has said.

She went through rehab in Atlanta, then learned more of the skills needed to navigate life in a wheelchair in part by exploring downtown Greenville with a recreational therapist.

“We would not be sending her back if we didn't think she was prepared,” Johnson told The Greenville News in May.

Childress has visited Columbia occasionally over the past few months, making an appearance at Carolina Stadium in March to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Gamecocks baseball game.

This month, however, marks her official return to campus as just another student among 31,000 others.

And Childress is hoping, as much as it’s possible for someone who’s so well known, to keep her return low key.

“I’m doing pretty well,” she said in May, flashing a smile. “I’m getting ready to go back to school. I’m getting back to life.”

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