HEALTHY MIND MATTERS

Trauma Survivors Share Their Stories At Weber High

Mar 1, 2019, 5:48 PM | Updated: Mar 4, 2019, 10:34 am

PLEASANT VIEW, Utah — Weber High School hosted a very special guest at their school assembly. Kechi Okwuchi, who was a finalist during the 2017 season of America’s Got Talent, sang in front of a group of lucky students.

She, along with several other trauma survivors this morning, also shared their stories in advance of a special conference tonight for fellow victims called “A Reason to Stand.”

When Okwuchi was only 16-years-old, she was in a horrific plane crash.

She recalls little from the accident, but remembers sitting with her friend seconds before the crash. “I was on the aisle seat and she was on the aisle seat next to me and I was holding her hand and that’s my last memory,” she remembered.

Okwuchi was one of only two survivors out of the 109 passengers on the plane.

The accident left more than 65 percent of her body with third degree burns. After being in a coma for weeks and a very slow recovery, Okwuchi realized her self-worth went deeper than skin.

She decided early on that her new scars wouldn’t dictate the rest of her life.

“If my scars and my outer appearance doesn’t define who I am, then I had to decide what did,” she explained.

Since then, Okwuchi set out to share her story with others recovering from traumatic experiences. She believes that is the reason she was saved.

Today she was joined by other women who also have their own traumatic stories — like Jennie Taylor, who lost her husband, Major Brent Taylor, in Afghanistan last fall.

“You can stand tall and you can stand proud,” Taylor said. “Even when you’re heartbroken and facing hardships and heartache, life can still be very beautiful. There is hope!”

Ashlee Birk Boyson is the founder of “A Reason to Stand. ”  It’s a non-profit designed to bring a community of trauma survivors together. Boyson has her own story, which she is sharing in detail tonight.

Her husband was murdered the same day she found out he was having an affair. She processed many emotions as she waited two years for a murder trial.

“Trying to function as a mom and as a human, but finding a lot of hate—hate for myself, hate for everyone involved in the story, including my husband who was dead,” said Boyson.

She was left with five young children and said she eventually had to figure out a way to stand.

“I had to start fighting for me. I had to start finding joy again which felt impossible,” she said.

Today she is remarried and sponsors bi-annual conferences for trauma survivors to share their stories and to find strength with one another.

She wants them to leave the conference with one message: “They can be brave enough to live a different story, but first you have to go back and heal from the pain of the past.”

Tonight Boyson’s non-profit is sponsoring a conference called “A Reason to Stand” at Weber High School in Pleasant View.

All three women, in addition to others, will be speaking at the event and sharing their experience of finding the motivation to stand during their darkest hours.

The event is open to the public and goes from 6 to 10 p.m. You can find tickets online or at the door for $25.

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Trauma Survivors Share Their Stories At Weber High