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WEST VALLEY CITY — Students from Hunter High School rose to their feet and cheered loudly Monday for one of their classmates who is overcoming the odds.
Two and a half years ago, while he was on his way to school, Walter Peralta was hit by a vehicle, suffering several traumatic brain injuries.
Peralta, 17, has since started to relearn basic functions, such as walking and talking.
"This is the kind of accident where there are consequences," said the teen's mother, Carolina Peralta. "The most important thing is that he is walking and talking and smiling."
Despite the physical and mental obstacles that Walter Peralta faces on a daily basis, the high school senior is prepared to graduate as the Granite School District's 2015 "Absolutely Incredible Kid."
The award is given each year to one Granite student who has overcome "tremendous odds," selected by district administrators from hundreds of nominations, said Ben Horsley, district spokesman.
The "Absolutely Incredible Kid" award is usually given to the selected student as a surprise. In this case, Peralta was presented the award at a year-end assembly.
Winners also usually receive other gifts, such as a scholarship and laptop, to help them further their education.
This is the kind of accident where there are consequences. The most important thing is that he is walking and talking and smiling.
–Carolina Peralta, teen's mother
This year, Granite Credit Union helped sponsor the scholarship, and Salt Lake City-based IT firm VLCM donated a Lenovo Chromebook.
"This is the biggest check you will probably receive," said Lynn Kuehne of Granite Credit Union as he handed a large $1,000 check to Peralta and his parents. "Don't worry; we will give you a smaller one you can cash in your account.
The school district made the award ceremony extra special by incorporating something Peralta loves — soccer.
"Walter was quite an athlete before the incident, and he has been working to get back on his feet," said Horsley as he introduced members from both Real Salt Lake and the Real Monarchs, who gave Peralta a signed jersey, scarf and season tickets.
Many of the players greeted the student with high-fives and hugs during the assembly and afterward.
For Peralta, the awards and attention are appreciated but overwhelming, his mother said, because he's still recovering from the incident.
"He doesn't feel very good because it is the last day for the medication he is taking for the traumatic brain injury," Carolina Peralta said. "He has struggled with the medication. Right now for him, he can't control his emotions, but he is happy."
When asked how he felt, Walter Peralta said, "I don't have any words to explain that are good enough."
According to his mother, some of Peralta's post-high school goals include going on a mission for the LDS Church, playing soccer again and becoming a pilot or an engineer.
Cassidy Hansen is currently studying both Political Science and Communications at Brigham Young University, while working as an intern at the Deseret News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org