Denver Sha-Vonne Benjamin | Young Hero Award from Alabama Public Television

Denver Sha-Vonne Benjamin

Cherokee High School

Cherokee, Alabama

Denver, now a senior at Cherokee High School, was diagnosed with lupus when she was in the 8th grade. Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease that causes a body’s immune system to attack its own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems—including joints, kidneys, blood cells, the brain, the heart, and the lungs. In spite of this diagnosis, Denver remained actively involved at her school and excelled in academics, athletics, cheerleading and multiple extracurricular activities.

In January of her sophomore year, Denver experienced something uncommon for people her age—a stroke. It was a huge setback for such an active young woman. The stroke left her with brain damage that made it look as if she would be unable to resume her previously active interests. She was in the hospital for two weeks and then spent most of the remainder of the school year as a homebound student. Denver had to relearn many abilities and tasks that are often taken for granted; like walking, talking, brushing your teeth, and feeding and bathing yourself. Loss of her short-term memory and her ability to read and retain new information, as well as the loss of her athletic abilities, were new hurdles to overcome.

Denver was determined to overcome the effects of the stroke. As soon as she was able, she began working hard in therapy and carefully following the instructions of her doctors. Slowly, progress was made. By the end of the school year, Denver was able to return to school for a couple of hours each day. Working hard through the summer, Denver returned to school full-time in the fall.

Back on course, Denver was again playing volleyball, basketball and softball, as well as cheerleading. By her senior year, she was the captain of the cheerleading squad, and the varsity volleyball and softball teams, as well as president of the Student Council and her school’s chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She is ranked 6th in her senior class of 50 students.

In her nomination of Denver, Cherokee High School guidance counselor Julia Gray wrote, “When I think of Denver, I think of a young person who is an overcomer with a new outlook on life and a new reason to live. She explores her options for the future and takes the necessary steps to reach her goals. Things are still not easy for Denver and probably never will be, but she will be a success and a productive member of society because she cares enough to give her best.”

Denver plans to attend college and to pursue a career as a neonatal nurse. Nothing can keep this young lady down. For her perseverance and determination in the face of extraordinary circumstances, Denver is recognized by her school and our state as one of the five 2018 Young Heroes of Alabama.

Young Hero Sponsors

The Young Heroes Program is made possible through the support of:

Derek Chen

Harris Trust


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These educational programs and services of Alabama Public Television made possible by the generous support of the following contributors:

Community Events & Engagement
  • Books-A-Million, Young Heroes
  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama, Be My Neighbor Day/Young Heroes
  • Brookmont Capital Management, Young Heroes
  • C. W. Daniel Charitable Trust, Young Heroes
  • Medical Properties Trust, Young Heroes
  • Fred Rogers Productions/PNC, Be My Neighbor Day
  • WNET-CPB, Sesame Street in Communities
General Support
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)
  • Public Broadcasting Services (PBS)
Learning Adventures
  • Alabama Bicentennial Commission
  • Alabama Humanities Foundation
    a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Alabama State Council on the Arts
    a state program of the National Endowment for the Arts
  • American Graduate
    a program of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • Daniel Foundation of Alabama
  • Malone Family Foundation
  • Robert Meyer Foundation
  • Sybil Smith Foundation
  • Troy Univiersity
  • U.S. Space & Rocket Center
  • Wells Fargo Foundation
Media Library
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting, American Graduate
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting, American Graduate, Getting To Work
PBS Kids Programs
  • Alabama Department of Human Resources
  • Alabama Power Company
  • Books-A-Million
  • Children’s of Alabama
  • HEAL Alabama
  • Medical Properties Trust
  • U.S. Space & Rocket Center
Professional Development for Educators
  • Community Foundation of South Alabama, PBS KIDS EdCamp
  • Sybil Smith Foundation, PBS KIDS EdCamp
Workforce Development
  • CAWACO, Career Forward
  • Southeast Alabama Works, Career Forward

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