Graduation ceremony brings a once tragic event full circle

Thousands of students walked across a stage today to receive diplomas, marking the beginning of their post collegiate lives.  But for a civil engineering student at the School of Mines and Technology, today marks the start of many new chapters.

May 7th is the date Shaun Herrod will never forget.  It’s the same date those close to him will always remember.

“It’s a different May 7th.  It’s not going to be the day he got into a car accident,” said Agnes Steele, Herrod’s Fiancée.  “It’s going to be the day he graduated from the School of Mines with Civil Engineering.”

Three years to the date a driver under the influence crashed into Herrod’s car on a north Rapid City street.  Herrod suffered a traumatic brain injury; an injury he’s battled ever since with his fiancée, Agnes Steele and an unexpected supporter by his side.  That supporter, Maconnell Baker is the very driver who caused his injury.

Thanks to the help of mediators at Restorative Justice, Herrod was able to make peace with him.

“They had a conversation in a safe place where they could talk about what happened, how they were affected and what would make this better, said Suzan Nolan, Restorative Justice mediator. “And from that conversation all this became possible.”

All this, referring to the close bond the two developed.  After the mediation, baker began to accompany his new friend to rehab sessions.  And today Baker was there yet again for one of Herrod’s most triumphant moments on the road to recovery.

The audience stood up and clapped as Herrod got out of his wheel chair and took big steps across the stage to accept his diploma.  His fiancée, Agnes always steps behind him.

“After all I went through, walking and getting this diploma is the greatest feeling I could have, said graduate Shaun Herrod.  “It feels good to be finished.”   

“Being there behind him walking across that stage, it made me feel like I lived up to what I told him I would do,” said Steele.   

And so did Baker, who vowed to help Herrod during times of need.  

“This is the start of your life, it’s a new chapter,” said Maconnell Baker.  

A diploma and a big step toward recovery: two accomplishments they’ve waited for, for three years.  Now this may seventh, is the day baker and Herrod, the future civil engineer, call a day of rebirth.

“I want them to be the closest that they could be because the accident that brought them together is going to keep them together,” said Steele.

Restorative Justice Mediators say they expect Herrod to make a full recovery.

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