Pictured above: President Jay Morgan (far left), Dr. Joseph Craft (center right), co-founder of the Craft Academy, and Craft Academy Director Dr. Carol Christian (far right) pose for a photo with Beth Price (center left) as she stands and accepts her Craft Academy diploma at the 2019 Craft Academy graduation ceremony.
When Beth Price of Morehead was walking onto the stage at Button Auditorium during the Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics 2019 graduation ceremony, she was having a thought almost anyone taking the stage in front of hundreds of people may have.
“I was just thinking, like, please don’t trip,” Price said with a laugh.
The mere fact that Price was thinking this shows just how far she has come because when she was at her Craft Academy induction ceremony, she couldn’t walk at all.
She and her father Dr. Kent Price, associate professor of physics at MSU, recall that day quite vividly.
“I remember being a little bit embarrassed, especially since they called my name and nobody came up,” Beth said.
“At first, they’re wondering, where is this Elizabeth Price? Did she not show up? Because they called her name and nothing happened,” Kent said.
The reason nothing happened was that Beth was sitting in an enclosed wheelchair lift being elevated to the stage. When she finally emerged after having some trouble with the door, she was in a wheelchair and neck brace, to the surprise of some in attendance.
What many people in that audience may have seen when they looked at Beth Price were her physical limitations at the time. What they may have missed were the academic abilities that got her to the Craft Academy in the first place or the resolve and determination that would bring her back to walk across that stage and accept her diploma.
Price was homeschooled by her mother, Kim, for most of her childhood and adolescence, minus one year in a public school that didn’t provide the intellectual challenges and engagement she was seeking. At one point, Kim was going to Kent to tag him in to teach her math and science since Beth was learning so quickly.
She remembers being extremely excited when she got the email that she was accepted into the Craft Academy. She and her family soon started shopping for a bedspread and sheets for her room on the MSU campus.
On May 10, 2017, the Wednesday of finals week of her sophomore year of high school, the accident happened.
Beth and Kent were taking turns driving their minivan to Shelby Valley High School so Kent could give an Early College physics presentation. Unexplainably, the vehicle lost control, rolling several times in the air before coming to a stop against a parked car carrier on the side of U.S. Highway 23.
“When I woke up, his (Kent’s) neck was in a very unnatural position on my shoulder. He wasn’t breathing. There was blood on his face,” Beth said.
“My neck was bent in a way that cut my airway off, so I wasn’t breathing,” Kent added.
As they lay there in the wreckage, a former EMT happened to come across the accident and used Beth’s backpack to stabilize Kent’s neck so he could breathe (Beth still has that backpack and kept it in her room at Craft for both years). Both Beth and Kent were rushed to the emergency room and suffered devastating injuries.
Kent had a traumatic brain injury (TBI), blood on his brain and fractured discs C-5 and C-6 in his back. He was in a coma for a week and spent another six weeks in the hospital.
Beth had seven broken ribs (one of which punctured her lung), a concussion, a crushed spleen that had to be removed and an ankle that needed to be surgically repaired with metal and screws. She also had a broken back, with fractures in thoracic vertebrae T-2 through T-7.
She spent almost a month in the hospital before she left in that wheelchair and neck brace. Her father said he can’t remember the first five-and-a-half weeks he was in the hospital, but he remembers one of the first conversations he had was with Beth talking about whether she would attend Craft Academy in a few months.
“I said, ‘You know Beth, everybody says what a wonderful opportunity Craft is and how you might think people would be upset with you for turning that down, but you’ve had a hard summer. You almost died. I almost died. You’re in a wheelchair. You’re in a neck brace. If you said, ‘You know dad, I’ve had a hard summer. I want to go back to easy school.’ I’m OK with that. I’ll support you as your dad,’” Kent said. “And she said, ‘No, Dad. I’m going to do it.’ And she did.”
“I knew it was the best option,” Beth said. “Even if it was going to be hard, I knew it was going to be the best option.”
During the two years at the Craft Academy, Beth completed her coursework while recovering from both the physical and mental stress of her accident. She was out of the wheelchair by Thanksgiving of 2017 and went from using a walker to crutches to walking on her own. She found herself getting exhausted quickly, but she said the attentive staff at the Craft Academy made accommodations to allow her to sleep during required study time and miss 10 p.m. hall meetings. There was even one instance when the elevator was broken in her residence hall and Craft staff carried her and her wheelchair down so she could make it to class.
She is still dealing with the after-effects of the accident. She still gets severe migraines from the concussion and is on medication for night terrors after she began waking up drenched in sweat and smelling smoke. Juggling her responsibilities with Craft and having to make physical therapy appointments, along with the physical and mental exhaustion that took time away from her studies, caused Beth to receive a few B’s and C’s in her classes that she believes she wouldn’t have made under normal circumstances. Even though her dad encouraged her to take a gap year from Craft to focus on herself and her recovery – she would have maintained her scholarships and academic standing – Beth pushed through. She even cut back her physical therapy appointments to focus on her schoolwork. She was determined to share the stage with her graduating class.
Now that she has graduated from the Craft Academy, Beth is taking her dad up on that gap year. She wants to be able to rest and not stress about class and get the necessary surgeries and therapy she had been putting off while she was in school. She’s looking forward to coming back 100 percent healthy to MSU, where she plans to pursue a double major in theatre education and elementary education with a minor in English. She one day hopes to become like the teachers that inspired her to come out of her shell.
“I really love theatre and really love kids, so I’m really happy I get to major in theatre education,” she said. “Kentucky really needs good teachers who care about the students and I want to be that.”
Beth’s Craft Academy graduation meant a lot more to her family than it would have before the accident. It meant a lot to her dad who shared in both the trauma of the accident and the triumph of seeing her walk across the stage she was unable to walk onto just a few years ago. It meant a lot to her mother, who went from thinking she could lose her husband and first-born child to watching her first-born child graduate with her husband by her side. It meant a lot to Beth’s youngest sister, Laura, who is looking forward to getting a bit more attention and fewer chores to do around the house.
The accident changed Beth and her family’s lives forever…and for the better.
“I said one time that if I could push a button and make it to where the accident didn’t happen, I would push it. And she (Beth) said, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t.’ And I’m at that point now, where I wouldn’t push it now, but she was the first person in the family who said she wouldn’t push it,” Kent said. “This has made us stronger. It has made us closer as a family.”
“I didn’t know I could do all of this,” Beth said. “I wouldn’t be the person that I was if it weren’t for the accident. I’m glad it happened. It changed me. It made me a better person.”