Daily Archives: May 5th, 2009

2-time Harvard graduate inspires students

Brooke Ellison and her mother visited campus April 20.

Brooke Ellison and her mother visited campus April 20.

By Melissa Maria Jackowski

“Mr. Ellison! Mr. Ellison! Brooke’s hurt on Nicholls Road!”

“What?”

“Brooke’s hurt…on Nicholls Road!”

–Scene 2 of The “Brooke Ellison Story”

Those were the first words Ed Ellison heard as he and his older daughter Kysten, were walking to the bus stop to wait for his 11- year -old daughter Brooke to come home, something she herself would never (independently) do again.

On that fateful day, Sept. 4 1990, her first day of seventh grade, Brooke and her friends walked home from school. In order to do so, they needed to cross Nicholls Road–and so they did. Her friends had already made it across when a speeding car hit Brooke. Neither Brooke
nor the driver saw each other.

“It was an accident that left me paralyzed from my neck down and on a respirator to breathe,” Brooke said during her speech at Suffolk Community College on April 20.

Determined to go back to school and eventually graduate with her class, Brooke never let her determination cease to waiver. She
graduated with an honors distinction and a 1410 on her SATs. Because of her academic success , Brooke was asked to apply to Harvard University.

Shortly after her graduation, Brooke received a phone call from [Director] Christopher Reeve who was interested in telling her story.

“[The call] was a bit of a shocker, knocked me on my ear a little bit,” Brooke said, smiling.

“The Brooke Ellison Story” which starred John Slattery, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Vanessa Marano, Jenson Goins, Devon Gearheart, Lacey Chabert, Jenson Goins, Ryan Hudson, and Luke Flynn premiered in October 2004 on the A&E Network.

While at Harvard pursuing her bachelor’s degree, Brooke majored in cognitive neuroscience (a mix of biology/psychology). Remaining determined, Brooke graduated in four years, earning the top honor of “Summa Cum Laude” for her senior thesis. She was also among the students chosen to give a commencement speech on the day of graduation:

“Good Afternoon. When I first arrived at Harvard four years ago, I arrived like any other freshman, with my parents. Unlike everyone else though, my father left, but my mother didn’t. A mother’s presence albeit nurturing, has created a whole host of social problems especially those seeking more than just academic enrichment. My mother has been with me every hour of every day and attended all of my classes. My mother and I learned so much from all of you, and what we hope you can learn from us is to take no one in your life for granted. Tomorrow I will graduate from Harvard with my mother, and all of you beautiful people. Miracles happen, they happened to me, and they’re happening to you, you just need to look to the people in your lives to see them,” Brooke said in her commencement address.

Two years later, Brooke returned to Harvard and earned her master’s degree in Public Policy. She is presently finishing up her PhD in Sociology (concentration in Bioethics) at Stony Brook University, then embracing the field of academia.

In 2007, Brooke founded The Brooke Ellison Project (www.brookeellisonproject.org) to educate people on Stem Cell Research. Stem Cell Research holds the promise to cure debilitating
diseases, and developmental disabilities. Although it brings about controversy, Brooke chooses to continue to educate people in hopes that Stem Cell Research will one day allow her, and people like her, to walk again.

Brooke spoke in Suffolk Community College’s Mildred Green Room telling the audience about her life and about how she overcame all of the obstacles she has had to face in her life since her accident. She also took questions from the audience and showed “Hope Deferred”, her documentary on Stem Cell Research.

When someone speaks the name BROOKE ELLISON, the word INSPIRATION immediately follows.

Brooke said it best when she said, “Miracles Happen, they
happened to me and they’re happening to you. You just need to look to the people in your lives to see them.”