Alexis Zepeda

Alexis Zepeda, left, will graduate with honors from Carson Newman University in May. Her road to graduation has been filled with numerous obstacles. With her is Jamie Susong, EOC Education Specialist with Douglas Cherokee Economic Authority.

JEFFERSON CITY—Alexis Zepeda first entered Douglas Cherokee’s Educational Opportunity Center (EOC), January 19, 2016 as a high school senior, who needed assistance with the Financial Aid application for college.

Alexis’s sister Alyssa had previously been a client of EOC, but not long after she enrolled at Walters State Community College she was tragically killed in a car accident due to driving with high blood sugar.

Alexis and her Mother, Nanette, shared at her first appointment about Alyssa’s death, and how Alexis had worked with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to create “Alyssa’s Promise”, a social media site with a link to educate the public about the dangers of driving with high blood sugar.

Alyssa had dreams of becoming a school teacher; this quotation taken from the Standard Banner reads:

“If Alyssa’s terrible death can prevent one other person from dying in a car accident, her goalof a career as an educator will have been fulfilled.” Nanette Zepeda

Alexis wished to enroll at Carson Newman University majoring in Human Services, and so she did in the fall of 2016.

Alexis herself is no stranger to obstacles. At age 2 she was diagnosed with an extremely rare bone disease (Blount), which is a growth disorder of the tibia (shin) bone which is an inward turning of the lower leg (bowing) that slowly worsens over time. She has had numerous surgeries with the help of Shriner’s.

Alexis is in a wheelchair the majority of the time. She is able to walk, but only short distances. Alexis can be found traveling back and forth in her wheelchair on campus in rain, snow, sleet, or shine as she only lives a block away, and her wheelchair is her means of transportation.

At age 5 she was diagnosed as having Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. It is thought the pressure from her surgeries brought about the onset of diabetes. She has also developed cataracts in both eyes as a result of the diabetes, and has had surgery for both while enrolled in college. After her surgery, her first question to her doctor was, “When can I read my textbooks?”

Also while Alexis was enrolled at CNU, her mother Nanette had to undergo open heart surgery. Alexis was now assisting her mother, who generally assisted and cared for her.

During her time at Carson Newman Alexis has made the Dean’s List not once but all four years. She has served as President of the Honor’s Society. She has served as an Orientation Leader, students who assist incoming freshmen in their adjustment to campus life.

Alexis volunteers each week at Appalachian Outreach (a poverty relief ministry serving impoverished families in a four-county area of East Tennessee). She assists families with filling out the application for services, and helps distribute food and clothing.

On February 20, 2020, Alexis was hit with the unexpected death of her mother. Her biggest encourager, support system, number one fan, and cheerleader is now missing from her life.

Alexis shared at her mother’s Memorial Service that she and her mother didn’t always agree on her choice of major at Carson Newman. Alexis is majoring in Human Services, but Nanette felt Political Science was a better fit, and it was only when Alexis shared with her doctor during a doctor’s appointment her excitement of distributing coats to those in need of one while she was volunteering at Appalachian Outreach. Her mother finally agreed and said, “I get it now, and I fully support you, you were put on this Earth to help people.”

Alexis is set to graduate May 1, 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Human Services degree. She is graduating top 10 in her graduating class. Her plans are to continue at Carson Newman University until she obtains her Masters in Mental Health Counseling.

Although her mother will be physically absent from this day and future accomplishments a song performed by Cyndi Lauper, “Time After Time” was played at the memorial service, a song the two shared. Her mother’s death is a great loss, but the words to the chorus of this song ring true for Alexis.

“If you’re lost you can look and you will find me…

Time After Time

If you fall, I will catch you, I’ll be waiting…

Time After Time…

Time After Time”

Locally Terri Hall is EOC Director for Cocke County. For for more information about financial aid help, call her at 423-736-5261.

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