Nevertheless, She Persisted

Savannah WaszczukAccess Launch, Success Stories

While Savannah Gibbs was presented with a series of challenges as she entered high school, she always found a way to carry on. Learn how Launch helped her find a path to earning her high school diploma, despite an unexpected knee injury and family hardships. 

As she entered her freshman year at Kickapoo High School, Savannah Gibbs lived a storybook life. Her days mirrored the days of most teenage girls—she balanced schoolwork and social time with TV, social media and a plethora of hobbies. Her father had a great job—he was the CEO of a Springfield bank—so Savannah was used to lifestyle perks such as getting her nails done and enjoying mother-daughter shopping trips. She had been playing volleyball competitively for nearly a decade—a childhood of club and traveling teams elevated her skillset—and she was ready to join the Kickapoo Chiefs team and even dreamed of eventually playing at the University of Arizona. And then one day she landed wrong during practice, and her life took a huge turn.
     “All of my ligaments snapped on that fall,” Savannah says. “They call it the perfect trifecta.” This is the injury that occurs when the knee bends inward, the outside of the femur lands on the tibia and crushes the lateral meniscus and the MCL stretches until it tears. At that very moment, Savannah’s volleyball career came to an abrupt halt, and four knee surgeries followed. “I’ve had a total knee reconstruction,” Savannah says. “I’ve had three knee surgeries and one meniscus removal.” Due to her major surgeries and their recovery times, Savannah ended up transitioning to a half-online schedule by her junior year.
     As time carried on, Savannah began to face challenges in other areas of her life. “My dad lost his job, and my family went through some financial hardships,” Savannah says. “They took our house, our boat, and a lot of our other expensive assets.” Naturally, this resulted in many lifestyle changes for Savannah. She not only had to sacrifice the regular nail appointments and shopping trips she’d grown accustomed to, but she also had to think about paying her own phone bill, making her own car payment each month and paying for her own insurance. “I had never even really had a job before,” says Savannah. “It was like a smack in the face, really.”
     The changes continued. Not long after the bankruptcy, Savannah’s parents told her and her siblings that they were getting a divorce. “They had been married for 24 years,” Savannah says. Her older sister was away studying in Africa at the time, but Savannah and her 10-year-old brother, Nicholas, were still both in the household, and they dealt with the news together. “I don’t really have any other family here—most of my extended family lives in Michigan,” Savannah says. “That’s really when I knew it was my time to become ‘Super Sister.'”
     Savannah quickly got a full-time job to keep up on her bills. “I had previously done a Medical Explorers Program through CoxHealth and job shadowed doctors,” she says. “My aunt knew of a job fair at the hospital, and she encouraged me to go and apply for a job.” Savannah was hired as a Unit Assistant at CoxHealth, and she’s been working 40 hours a week ever since. She spends the majority of her time on the Pulmonary Medical-Surgery floor. “I really do a little bit of everything,” Savannah says. “I’ll help take care of patients and make sure they’re comfortable. I’ll make sure their families are comfortable. I’ll help give showers or take patients for walks.” Starting each day at 6 a.m. and working in a hospital came with its own challenges, and it was a lot for a 17-year-old entering her senior of high school to handle. “I attended the first three full days of school senior year,” Savannah says. “I was tired—really just exhausted. My school wasn’t getting enough time, and I wasn’t getting enough time. I talked to my counselor and said I really wanted to go full-time online.”
     Savannah became a full-time online student in May 2018. “Launch was kind of a gift from God for me,” Savannah says. “I have a set time that I work on my classes after work.” This works well for Savannah as she continues to pay her own bills and helps care for her brother. “I love the flexibility I have with Launch,” she says. “If I need to go and help my little brother during the day, and I’m not at work, I can go and do that. I can pick him up.”
     Savannah finished earning her credits in May 2019, and she credits Launch for making it possible. “I needed relief,” Savannah says. “I needed emotional relief, and I needed physical relief. I needed something that could help me get through. Launch made it all possible for me.”