By Cindy Jo Ayers
Just five days before his high school graduation in 2015 Cole White was paralyzed in an accident on the Suwannee River. Cole was an outstanding athlete during his years at Bell High with many friends. Shortly after the accident the words “#Colestrong” began showing up on vehicles all over Gilchrist County as a way to encourage and support this young man and his family.
After the accident, Cole rehabbed at Shepherds Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Cole said, “It was truly a remarkable place, I met so many different people who were in the same situation as I was, which made talking about our accidents a lot easier since everyone could relate and understand.” Although the recovery process has been very overwhelming at times, his therapists at Shepherd Center prepared him for every obstacle that he would encounter once he returned home.
“The hardest thing about my recovery and still is to this day, is keeping a positive mind set. It is very easy to get discouraged and upset but, having an amazing support system means everything.” Cole stated. He said his family means everything to him and he understands the traumatic experience of the accident not only affected him but also his parents and sister. “They have done everything in their power to ensure that I can do anything I set my mind to and not let my injury hinder me from accomplishing my goals. They continue to be my biggest motivation and I would not be the person I am today without them, I owe everything to them.” Cole said.
He said his girlfriend Ashlyn is one of the biggest reasons he continues to have such a positive and happy mind set. Cole said that most of the time when he is out in public people see him as a person in a wheelchair, and not as a ordinary human being. “My girlfriend is the complete opposite, she sees me as a normal person and doesn’t just see a wheelchair, it’s one of the best feelings in the world,” Cole said. He also said his friends continue to treat him the same as they did prior to his injury and make sure he is included in any plans they make. It’s great that he can still hang out with them, play video games, go to the movies, get lunch and just sit around and talk. Those friendships have greatly helped Cole in his recovery.
After rehab Cole graduated from Florida Gateway College with an AA Degree and transferred to University of Florida where he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology in December. Now he will begin to work toward a Law Degree. He will be moving to Naples, Florida to attend the Ave Maria School of Law later this week. Cole said he chose Ave Maria School of Law because he feels the school will give him a great opportunity to succeed in his career as an attorney. He has family in South Florida who he rarely sees, so attending law school in Naples will allow him to be closer to them and see them more often.
When asked why he wanted to be an attorney Cole said, “I always had an interest in law while I was growing up, I was a member of the criminal justice program in high school and took a few criminal justice and law based classes in college. But, one main reason is because of my injury, I understand what it’s like to go through a traumatic accident and feel scared and helpless. I want to be a person who will be there for someone whenever they experience an accident and assure them that I will do everything I can to bring about the best possible outcome. I feel the best way I can help someone in that situation is by becoming an attorney and specializing in personal injury.”
Cole hopes to finish Law School in 2023 and go to work with a personal injury firm, he plans on learning and gaining experience, which will help him become a better lawyer and have a successful future.
“The one piece of advice I can offer to students who are finishing high school is life is always going to throw an obstacle in your way that will come unexpectedly, you can either let it control and define you, or you can control and define it. As long as you keep a positive and determined mind set, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to,” Cole said.
Cole White is truly “Cole Strong” with a bright future ahead of him.
Congratulations Cole, Gilchrist is proud of you.
Cole White making his home town Proud, #Colestrong
By Cindy Jo Ayers