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RACINE— High school for Taya Crowell was anything but easy due to an eventual diagnosis of fibromyalgia, but on Saturday, they will graduate from Park High School, 1901 12th St., with a 3.8 GPA.

Crowell, who will further their education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with the intent to become a nurse, has had quite the journey to their day of commencement.

Someone in their shoes may wish their high school days away, but now that Crowell is nearing the end, this time period serves as a reflection of what they have overcome and the path that led them to success, despite the obstacles they endured.

“I really liked high school,” says Crowell. “School is definitely an outlet for me. I really do enjoy coming to school. That’s why I’m gonna miss high school so much.”

Navigating uncertainty

They moved from Chicago to Racine at the beginning of freshman year. They started a new high school in a new city, not knowing a soul, but they adapted. Throughout their sophomore year, Taya began to feel the coursework picking up and the curriculum becoming more difficult. Again, they persisted.

Junior year of high school brought the unimaginable for Taya. Their world was flipped upside down when they began experiencing unending pain, without reason, cause, or diagnosis.

“And when you describe it as in, you’re ‘in a lot of pain,’ people don’t really know how much pain it is all the time.”

Taya Crowell on dealing with fibromyalgia

“It was a lot of pain, all the time, everywhere. It wasn’t localized. I went through countless doctors, went through many medical tests and I found out that I have fibromyalgia, which you typically get when you’re around like maybe 20 to 50 (years old),” explains the graduating senior. “I’m not 20 to 50. I jumped the gun a little bit.”

Accessibility helps student thrive

Crowell graduates with 3.8 GPA despite dealing with fibromyalgia
Taya’s senior year has been mixed with hardship and improvement. Overall, they feel it has been a success. –

The diagnosis put a name to what Crowell was dealing with, but it didn’t stop the symptoms from occurring.

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, and on days when extra support is needed, they rely on the help of a cane.

Thankfully, senior year began looking up for Taya, as they describe this final year of high school as their “recovering” year.

Even though Crowell has seen improvement this year, their invisible illness continually impacts their life.

“I know this quarter, because of the month I was out, I had 132 absences. But that was for each class, every day. I’ve never missed school just because like, I didn’t want to go to school.”

What doesn’t seem like an improvement to some is an accomplishment to them.

“I was definitely in school more. I learned just to take it one day at a time and I tried not to focus on the pain, but it’s hard to not focus on it. I just kept consistent with medications and physical therapy that I was going through to try to balance everything out,” explains Crowell about managing their condition.

The teachers were very supportive of it, as well as the school psychologist and the principals.

“My AP biology teacher, Ms. Todd, she’s exceptional. When I was, I think, I was out for a month, she was just so worried about me. She reached out to my family to know how everything was going. She’s definitely one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.”

Dealing with an invisible illness

Crowell learned more than just what was taught in the classrooms while at Park.

They learned how to adapt, overcome, and advocate. They learned how to adjust to their body and help others understand too.

“I try to talk about it a lot, as much as I can, or whenever it comes up… It was invisible until I had to use a cane for a long time because I was starting to lose the ability to walk correctly. But it was hard for some people to understand, really what it was, because you can’t see it, and it doesn’t show up,” explains the senior. “And when you describe it as in you’re ‘in a lot of pain,’ people don’t really know how much pain it is all the time.”

Not only does Crowell advocate for fibromyalgia, but for mental health as well. Mental health struggles have also impacted this student.

“I was able to persevere through a lot and I was able to get through it, no matter how dark it got, no matter how sad it got. I’m still here. And I’m still pushing through everything. So being a graduate, it can show that even if you’re struggling, you can still succeed, if you like, really, really try,” says Crowell.

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