NewsPositively Hampton Roads


Local teen who almost died in crash one year ago set to graduate

Posted at 10:58 PM, May 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-21 23:30:17-04

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - One year ago, on May 22, Juan Spence went from living his best life to fighting for it. He was in a tragic crash right outside Warhill High School. James City County Police said speed and weather were factors in the crash.

"That’s when I got that horrific news. I didn't know the outcome. All I could do was trust God and have faith, but the odds were definitely stacked up against him," said his mom, Elizabeth Spencer. She said the car was on top of him and he was being rushed to a hospital in Richmond.

Juan started fighting to recover from a traumatic brain injury. It was something the former track athlete wasn't familiar with. Doctors gave him a five percent chance of beating it. His mom said he endured five surgeries, numerous therapy sessions and appointments driving back and forth meeting with doctors in Richmond. But through it all, she said Juan never gave up.

That strength paid off. He maintained a 3.5 GPA even when taking AP classes.

"The thing is just..some of the classes I've taken like AP gov[ernment] and probably and statistics it’s just a lot of work in the class," said Juan, who stumbled over the word statistics the first time. But he's made vast improvements since News 3's Kim Cung saw him in August.

"If anyone is going through what I went through, it's worth doing. It really is because I had fun along the way," said Juan with a smile.

Part of that fun included prom, which was extra special since he didn't get to attend junior prom last year. He wore a pink and red floral blazer and his date wore a red cocktail dress. His mom said he searched high and low for that blazer.

"I saw it on the mannequin in one store and I knew I had to get it," said Juan.

Now, his family is looking forward to what's next. He'll graduate June 16 and he'll be giving a speech at the graduation ceremony titled, "The Power of Desperation," which he worked on with his family. Juan hopes it inspires others to be better, do better and make better choices. It also shows how desperate he was to survive.

In the fall, Juan will attend Thomas Nelson Community College and hopes to pursue a career in IT. His mom is just thankful he'll be close by, but she's more thankful May 22 is now a happy date for them and not one full of tragedy.

"We’re celebrating the one year anniversary of surviving and it's not a one year anniversary of him passing. Words can't even express how grateful we are for everyone," she said.