Student Spotlight – Jessica Tlaca

Jessica Tlaca keeps a smile on her face despite all the trauma she faced.

Photo used with permission from Jessica Tlaca

Jessica Tlaca keeps a smile on her face despite all the trauma she faced.

Ashlyn Dewitt, Writer

The typical student starts high school at 14 years old and graduates at 18 years old. This is the prime time for human development. In these years, students learn things about themselves that they didn’t know before.

Experiencing trauma in this time period can severely affect a student’s growth. This can cause a student to become distracted or not be able to properly interact with other students. Jessica Tlaca, a senior at Ozark High School, was faced with trauma at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. 

On July 8, 2019, Tlaca got into a car accident with her little sister. “Everything happened within seconds and nothing really made much sense until the car came to a stop. I slowly allowed myself to release my hands from the wheel and let my body lay down on the ground full of shattered glass. Not too long after that, my adrenaline was starting to wear off and I felt a sharp stabbing pain in my lower back,” said Tlaca.

Tlaca was rushed to the hospital where she discovered she had broken her pelvis in two major spots as well as several small fractures. She dislocated her left leg and damaged her left sciatic nerve (a major nerve extending from the lower end of the spinal cord down the back of the thigh), causing a foot drop in her left foot. She was non-weight bearing for three months and had an external fixator connected to her pelvis for two months.

Despite all this trauma, Tlaca managed to stay optimistic and shine a light on this dark experience. She adapted to many daily activities, including being an instructor for students at Dunham’s Martial Arts.

“I often say to myself, “did this wreck happen to me or did it happen for me?” I find comfort in this little saying. I see it like this is what is happening to you right now in life. Are you going to let that break you down and strip you of all joy and just be torn down because you can’t do this or that, or are you going to say that this wreck happened for you and let it lift you up to see new ways and learn from everything that this has put you through,” said Tlaca.

Tlaca was out of school for a month and a half to let herself heal. Mrs. Betsy Rice, an English teacher at OHS, visited her twice a week to help her stay caught up on schoolwork while she was home bound. When she returned to school, she was still using a wheelchair and unable to put weight on her lower body.

“Going back to school was not only hard emotionally, but hard physically as well. I had to figure out new ways to get around, pushing myself everywhere, going to the bathroom, opening doors, etc. It was also physically hard because of all the pain that came with sitting all day long. Along with the physical challenges, it was really hard emotionally. People constantly asking what happened, getting looked at in a weird way, having people see me in a different situation and being different from everyone else because let’s be real, we all deep down don’t want to be that weird kid and that’s how I felt,” said Tlaca. 

In spite of these struggles, Tlaca said her fellow classmates never hesitated to help her get through the school day in any way they could. She found comfort and relief in the kindness that students constantly surrounded her with. 

Four months later, Tlaca is walking again and continues to inspire her peers. She miraculously found the positive in her situation and kept her head up through all of the trauma she suffered. 

“There have been so many positive things come from this major event in my life. All the pain that the wreck caused not only to me but to everyone connected to me as well has definitely shaped all of us into better people. I wouldn’t change anything that has happened to me. There has been so much good in this bad situation and because of that, I will always be grateful for everything that I have gone through, everything I am going through, and everything I will go through in the future,” said Tlaca.