On a snowy day in Van Alstyne, Riley Sprowl's life was forever changed after one wrong turn while sledding.
"One of my friends took kind of a wide turn and it led me into a metal pipe fence," Riley says. "I broke my C3, C4, and C5 (spinal) vertebrae, and it left me paralyzed from the neck down."
Riley had quadriplegia, a paralysis of all four of his limbs and his torso.
Despite frequent hospitalizations and some low moments, Riley worked hard for his bachelor's degree in integrative studies and sociology, and even founded Able Faith, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting people with disabilities.
"I've just been taking it one day at a time, learning more about myself and taking life less for granted," Riley says. "I know my God's got a plan for me, and I just got to trust it and, you know, just believe in him and believe in the process."
Riley's school journey hasn't been easy, but he believes UNT has helped him every step of the way.
"I would say UNT has definitely been an advocate for me," Riley says. "They've kind of made me feel where I'm a student first that just happens to have a disability."
Riley credits much of his success to Laurie Carroll, a senior academic counselor for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. She even first suggested he pursue a double major.
"She was amazing," Riley says. "She helped me step by step, she advocated for me, and the process was honestly a joy."
With his outlook on life affected by quadriplegia, Riley wanted to help others like himself. He and a friend co-founded Able Faith, a non-profit dedicated to assisting people with disabilities.
"Its main goal is to help people with neurological disabilities grow in their faith, community, and also their fitness as well," Riley says. "We really empower people with neurological disabilities and give them hope [that] they're not alone in this world."
A transfer from Collin College, Riley was initially unsure of what degree to pursue. After speaking to an advisor, he decided to pursue a major in Integrative Studies.
"It's kind of a jack of all trades," Riley says. "You can take all these hours in different classes, and it can give you a feel for what you want to do."
After taking a sociology class, he grew to love it. His advisor even suggested that he become a double major.
Riley hopes to further the mission of his nonprofit and expand its reach. As for himself, Riley is planning to take the next step in his life, finding a career. His goal is to be able to live as independently as possible.
"Right now, I need full-time care and stuff that'll take care of me," Riley says. "Having that sense of 'I got my own job, pay my own bills, bought my own groceries,' It's a big deal for people like me that have lost a lot of independence."
Riley is set to graduate magna cum laude. Reflecting on his experience, he recommends students to keep their eyes on the ball.
"Just focus on the now," Riley says. "Embrace the newness that comes from experiencing college, study hard, take your time, there's no rush."