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Remarkable persistence helps woman overcome injuries

Ten years ago, Wendy Carangelo was a student at Broome Community College and hoping to begin a career as a teacher after years as a stay-at-home mom to six children.

Today, the Vestal resident is a master’s candidate in the School of Education at Binghamton University with the same dreams — and an entirely different perspective.

In May 1998, Carangelo was severely injured when a van crashed into her minivan near  BCC.

It was six months before she could walk again; she was told she might never regain full use of her right arm. Carangelo, who had a 4.0 grade-point average before the accident, found herself having to re-learn a variety of basic tasks.

“Not to be able to count change just blew my mind,” she said.

Carangelo spent four years going through cognitive, physical and vision therapy. She learned the alphabet, this time alongside her youngest child, then 3.

On Christmas Eve in 2000, Carangelo was in another car accident. This time, she had no feeling in one of her arms and had to have surgery on her shoulder.

“My doctor wrote a prescription for a Hummer,” she said.

Carangelo returned to BCC in 2002 with lingering physical and cognitive difficulties  and a note-taker in every class.

She graduated with an associate’s degree in liberal arts and elementary education and then enrolled at Binghamton for a bachelor’s degree in English. The fact that she couldn’t write for prolonged periods didn’t keep her from graduating cum laude in 2004.

“You just make adjustments,” Carangelo said. “You adapt to what life throws at you.”

Carangelo decided to pursue a master’s degree in teaching, with plans to teach elementary school. She has found a way to use her new perspective on life in the classroom. Everyone, she said, learns differently. And how many teachers have such a fresh recollection of what it’s like to learn the alphabet?

“You go into the classroom and you know you belong there,” she said. “All the therapyI went through taught me that everyone learns a different way. I think it made me stronger, too.”

Assistant Professor Maureen Boyd said she admires the way Carangelo uses her wealth of life experience. “She brings in what she knows and fits it within the theoretical framework and the curriculum,” Boyd said. “Class is just one part of learning for Wendy. She’s here to get the fullest experience that she can.”

Carangelo said her husband, a supervisor at Harris Assembly Group in Kirkwood, and their children, now ages 12 to 21, continue to help her in ways large and small. The large, blended family (Carangelo and her husband were both married before) is both literally and figuratively a team. The eight of them bowl together regularly. Carangelo, who still can’t lift something as heavy as a basket of laundry, uses a little 10-pound ball.

Carangelo, who received the Charles G. and Nancy M. Brink Scholarship and the University Women Scholarship this year, asks her children for suggestions when she’s developing lessons on topics ranging from the Iroquois to recycling. Her oldest son, a student at BCC, now plans to become a teacher.

Carangelo takes nothing for granted. And this year brought new achievements and joys into her life. Carangelo, who became a grandmother during the summer, was inducted into the Kappa Delta Pi honor society last weekend.


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Last Updated: 10/14/08