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home : dakota county star top stories : dakota county star top stories
June 22, 2018

Family, faith and friends encourage Ponca graduate living with Cerebral Palsy
Emma Beach, Courtesy Photo
Emma Beach, Courtesy Photo
Michelle Kuester
Dakota County Star Editor

Everyone has tough days while growing up and going through school. It's a fact of life.

Throw in having a motor disability like Cerebral Palsy (CP), and it sounds almost insurmountable.

Not for recent Ponca graduate Emma Beach, though.

“I've learned to overcome a lot,” Emma said.

She was diagnosed with CP when she was born and had to wear a leg brace from the time she was three-years-old until middle school when she had leg surgery. The left side of her body is also paralyzed and when she was younger, she had a harder time catching on to some concepts in the classroom.

“I just kept strong in my faith,” she said. “My parents don't let me use it as an excuse.”

Emma also reached out to her friends for support.

“My classmates have really helped include me in things,” she said.

Despite the physical challenges she faced, Emma took part in activities in P.E. class and played youth softball and elementary track and field. She was also a manager for softball and volleyball when she was older so she could stay involved with her friends.

“I would never know at school that she had tough days just by the way she acts and interacts with everyone,” said Derek Lahm, Ponca High School principal.

In elementary school, Emma struggled in math class due to the intellectual disabilities that often accompany CP.

“Easy math just to start with was very difficult,” said her stepfather Brian Hansen.

Over the years, however, she went from struggling to winning awards and recognition for her math scores.

“It's a testament to her perseverance,” Hansen said.

Her perseverance and her desire to carry on without complaint, that is.

“I thought she was always a top-notch student,” Lahm said. “Until now, I had no idea learning was ever a struggle for her.”

Emma will study veterinary science at South Dakota State University in the fall because of her love of animals and participation in 4-H growing up.

“It's going to be a huge adjustment,” she said.

“She'll adjust to anything,” her stepfather interjected. “She always figures it out.”

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