Eastern Hancock senior set to graduate with college credits despite health struggles


Eastern Hancock High School senior Shelby Harris has a few health issues, including dealing with spina bifida, something she’s had since birth. But, she gets good grades and is heading to college. Tuesday, May 30, 2023.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Reading, writing and arithmetic are some of the core classes in education. However not all subjects click with all students no matter how hard some may try.

In just a few days, Shelby Harris will pick up her diploma from Eastern Hancock High School at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 4 during graduation and then head on to college where she plans to work on her culinary skills. Shelby wraps up her senior year heading to the next chapter of life with several college credits toward her future degree after years of pushing forward despite health issues that have affected her school work.

While Shelby has been able to earn mostly A’s and B’s, with a few C’s sprinkled in while in high school, reading has always been a huge obstacle due to health challenges, some associated with a severe form of spina bifida, something Shelby has had since birth.

Spina bifida is a defect in which an area of the spinal column doesn’t form properly. While Shelby noted she does have a severe form of the birth defect, she doesn’t let it keep her from getting around or striving for the best in her school work. Shelby’s reading comprehension is something she’s worked hard at in order to progress and be a typical high school student.

“For some reason, I have a hard time processing what I read,” Shelby said. “I sometimes have to read things several times just to understand it and most of my reading issues happen when I’m at school for some reason.”

In order to wrap up her high school career and prepare for the future of taking more classes at Ivy Tech, Shelby took charge of her studies this year.

“Heading into my senior year, I just decided to ask for help, and it’s really made a difference because I’ve done better,” she said.

That included things like asking to leave a room and find a more quiet place when things became too loud for her to concentrate.

“I would either go to a different room, the library or just go sit in the hall and read and it helped, but sometimes if I couldn’t concentrate, I’d have to do something else and come back to it and refocus later,” Shelby said.

One of Shelby’s teachers, Shantelle Ebbert, said despite Shelby having challenges with her health and mobility, Shelby is known as a hardworking, bright student who approaches challenges head on and with a positive attitude.

“Shelby exhibits great leadership skills in her interactions with others, and she has persevered through not only her classes at Eastern Hancock High School, but also in the Culinary Arts program at the New Castle Vocational school where she attends half day,” Ebbert told the Daily Reporter. “Shelby does not back down from a challenge, but works to overcome obstacles that are in her way.”

Ebbert went on to say how, “it’s been a pleasure working with Shelby and watching her grow in all aspects of her education.”

Shelby noted much of her success is due to the support of her teachers and family who have given her encouragement to overcome the physical and educational challenges.

“My mom has really helped me with my reading and has even read things to me to help make sure I understood,” Shelby said. “But, I think the real key was just letting everyone know I needed some help.”

Shelby’s mother, Lynette Harris, said she could not be more proud of what her daughter has accomplished, not only earning good grades, but making the decision to move on to college and chase her dreams of becoming a baker.

“I’m very proud of her,” her mother said.

Shelby admits her senior year has been the hardest by far because she’s taken more difficult classes and has been more outgoing as she’s grown up.

“I’ve noticed I have struggled a lot more this year, even having to re-read things six or seven times just to understand it, but I’ve just done it and moved on,” she said.

Shelby noted many teachers have helped her reach her goal of graduation and moving on, including her chemistry teacher, Lauri Johnson, who Shelby said has been patient and worked with her when the reading issue have popped up.

“She can tell when I’m struggling and she helps me,” Shelby said. “It’s so good to have that support because most people don’t understand what I’m going through and what having this issue is like.”

Not unlike most seniors, Shelby says she’s ready to be done with high school and move on to the next phase of life. She’s proud of the fact she’ll graduate her culinary class at New Castle, taught by officials from Ivy Tech, and then head on to Ivy Tech college classes as a sophomore.

“I shouldn’t have to take many more classes there, but I plan on taking as many classes as I can and working while I’m in college,” she said. “I’m thinking of someday owning my own business.”

The biggest lesson Shelby said she’s taken away from high school is something she’d like to pass on to other students.

“If you are struggling with something, don’t be afraid to ask for help because there are people at Eastern Hancock who can help you, and don’t feel embarrassed about asking,” Shelby said.

Someday, Shelby said, she just might be one of those people who reads for pleasure, but for now with a large part of her reading, writing and arithmetic behind her, about the only things she wants to read in the near future are books and papers filled with great recipes.

“I’m just really ready to be done with high school and to move on and do some baking,” Shelby said.

When asked her favorite thing to bake, Shelby paused, then laughed and said, “chocolate chip cookies.”