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KANNAPOLIS — As Tatyana Donaldson sat in her Kannapolis home Tuesday, she said she isn’t ready to leave Mom and Dad just yet.
But she’s already planning her future — a future she plans to meet on her own terms.
Tatyana, 17, will graduate from A.L. Brown High School on Friday. She’s the daughter of James and Shana Donaldson.
Her father said she’s come a long way in 17 years, and overcome many obstacles just by being tenacious.
James said after his daughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant, Tatyana continually proved naysayers wrong.
“They said she wouldn’t crawl or walk. She crawled. She walked,” James Donaldson said.
When complications kept her out of school for several weeks during her senior year, she went to extra classes — going to school when other seniors were enjoying a break — so she could catch up, and graduate.
“I feel very good to be done,” Tatyana said.
There are many things she’ll miss about A.L. Brown High, she said, including class trips and the teachers who’ve helped her through the years.
She said she’s left behind her the fear and uncertainty she had four years ago.
“When I first got to Brown, when I was a freshman, I used to be soft,” Tatyana said. “Soft and scared.”
She said she learned how to persevere, despite the obstacles.
Yolanda Stanback, teacher assistant and job coach in A.L. Brown High’s E.C. program, has worked with Tatyana for the past four years.
She started out helping Tatyana travel between classes, making sure she had everything she needed .
After her junior year, Stanback said, she let Tatyana start doing more on her own.
“In four years, you get to know a person a lot,” Stanback said. “She’s had to basically learn to use what she has.”
In the times when life and her struggle to succeed brought Tatyana down, Stanback said, she encouraged Tatyana not to give up.
“I told her, we all have gifts, and we all have to operate with what we’ve been given,” Stanback said.
“She can be very stubborn, but of course I can, too!” Stanback said, laughing.
As she sat at the dining table of her house, Tatyana said she’s not ready to leave home just yet.
She plans to stay with her parents in Kannapolis, and perhaps take online classes through a local or regional program — most likely ECPI, she said.
Tatyana wants to study computer technology, especially hardware.
That’s partly due to the fact that computers and technology have helped her communicate and learn throughout high school, James said.
Tatyana, who has difficulty speaking and writing clearly, used computers to do her research, prepare class projects and communicate more effectively, James said.
Stanback said she’d seen Tatyana’s knowledge of technology at work, also.
“She’s good with making PowerPoint (presentations), and I can see her being successful,” Stanback said.
Over the four years Stanback worked with Tatyana, “she became more than just a student,” Stanback said. “She is someone I genuinely love and care about, and I’ll make sure I keep in touch with her.”
No matter what her future holds, Tatyana said she’s not in a hurry.
“I’m going to take a little while to get there,” she said. “We’ve got to get there step by step. Like my grandmother said, age ain’t nothing but a number!”

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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