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K-State Today

May 4, 2018

Two College of Human Ecology students recognized by university as Extraordinary Student Award winners

Submitted by College of Human Ecology

Two students, Kaitlyn Cherry and Amber Wilhelm, both in the College of Human Ecology, were recognized at the Extraordinary Student Awards banquet in April. The awards banquet is hosted by the Office of Student Life each year to recognize junior, senior or graduate students who have overcome unique obstacles and have been able to succeed in their educational pursuits.

Cherry is a senior in family studies and human services.

Cherry is a nontraditional student who came to K-State after attending another college that she said was unprepared to meet her needs. As a student who is blind, she looked for a place that could help her excel in her studies. Cherry's access advisor, Ann, described her as open and hard working.

"I admire her openness to discuss the challenges she faces and the perseverance she shows when barriers are in her way," Ann said. "Kaitlyn has put in the long hours in her coursework and she was initiated into Delta Alpha Pi International Honor Society in the fall of 2015. She is successful despite upon occasion having to wait for course content due to inaccessibility of formats. She is successful despite that fact that everything takes longer as a person who is blind including school work."

"It has been such a pleasure to work with Kaitlyn over the years," Ann said. "I am hopeful that society will provide this talented and energetic woman with the opportunities she so richly deserves."

Cherry is set to graduate in May with her bachelor's degree and anticipates continuing her education with a master's degree.

Wilhelm is a senior in hospitality management.

On April 14, 2017, Wilhelm's life changed forever when she was involved in a hit and run accident as a pedestrian. Wilhelm was struck by a vehicle as she crossed the street in a crosswalk on her way home from a night out with friends. As a result, she suffered many life-threatening and life-altering injuries. Wilhelm remained in critical condition for many days. After her release from the hospital, she was admitted to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, to have physical, occupational and speech therapies. Once allowed home, she continued additional outpatient therapies. After taking a semester to recover, she returned back to campus this spring to begin her senior year in hospitality management.

Though Wilhelm has faced many challenges in finishing her degree, including having to re-learn much of her coursework from previous semesters, she continued to push forward with a smile on her face.

"Amber could have easily walked away from her collegiate career following her accident, but that's not her spirit," said Kelli Farris, former academic advisor and nominator. "To have gone through the challenges she has, it is even more amazing to know that she will graduate just one semester later than planned. She remains steadfast in her determination to graduate and has used the circumstances over the last year to only make her a stronger person."

Wilhelm said she is grateful for the prayers, help, well-wishes, considerations and selflessness she has seen from faculty, staff, family and friends, the K-State community and all others that have showed their support during this journey.

"Specifically, I would like to thank Kelli Farris, all of my professors, Heather Reed, the staff in the Office of Student Life, the faculty in hospitality management department and any others who made my transition back to campus smooth/seamless. I have wanted nothing more than to express my sincere gratitude to you all," she said.