Six Years Later, Kearria Freed Walks

Posted on May 11, 2021 by Marketing and Communications
Marketing and Communications


For two years, following a 2015 shooting, Kearria Freed was unable to walk unassisted. Last week, she walked across the stage at the University of South Alabama Mitchell Center – one of 2,119 spring and summer degree candidates. 

“Living with a disability is a challenge,” she says. “You never get used to it. You have to constantly adapt to the world around you.”

Freed was shot in the head at a Panama City Beach house party during spring break in 2015. She underwent extensive physical therapy and remains partially paralyzed on the left side of her body. Her service dog, a Labrador/golden retriever named Darling, helped her manage rehabilitation and higher education. 

Freed took classes at Bishop State Community College before transferring to South in the Pathway USA program, which guarantees enrollment to students who complete their associate’s degree at a partnering community college. On campus, she worked with the Office of Student Disability Services as she pursued a degree in interdisciplinary studies. She wants to become a rehabilitation counselor for others with disabilities.

Her mother, Madonna Burden, has been her biggest supporter, cheerleader and inspiration.

“I told her, ‘We’re going to fight to regain your independence,’” Burden said. “‘We’re going to move forward in life.’”

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