BARSTOW • Students and staff from Barstow Community College packed Straw Hat Pizza Friday as the college recognized its student leaders, clubs and athletes in its annual recognition event.

One of the students who received an award was Angie Stewart.  The 21-year-old, who sat quietly in her wheelchair amidst the hubbub, never pictured herself attending college.

She wanted to join the Navy. But at age 16, she was in the back seat of a car driving down Highway 60 in Ontario and was the victim of a hit-and-run collision that paralyzed her from the arms down.

The accident changed many things, Stewart said.

"You're going from being 16 to 'Now I'm on a wheelchair and paralyzed,'" said her mother, Earnestine Stewart.

Now she'll be graduating BCC in May with an associates degree in justice administration, and was awarded the Student Inspiration Award Friday for her work with the campus's disabled students group, which raises money for infants with Down syndrome and other special needs.

But after becoming paralyzed, with only limited mobility of her arms, Stewart — who was an avid dancer and basketball player — needed another plan.

"I always thought college was for nerds," Stewart said, smiling.

Though she no longer dances or plays basketball, Stewart remains active with her interests.

"You just can't sit around and do nothing all day," Stewart said.

So Stewart spent time volunteering as a hip-hop choreographer at the Barstow Academy of Dance, teaching groups of junior high and elementary students, according to her mother, Earnestine Stewart.

Academy owner Marvin Ellis said Stewart's passion for dance was clear when she was teaching classes.

"She never gives up," said Peggy Greeno, Stewart's counselor in the college's Office of Student Service, who presented Stewart with a plaque on Friday. "She somehow has managed to maintain this sweet spirit against incredible odds."

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(760) 256-4122 or elee@desertdispatch.com