ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - A Winter Park High School student received his diploma on Wednesday, despite many challenges after being injured in a hit-and-run incident. It has been a long journey for Travis Luque Exposito, 20, who was beaming with happiness as he prepared for his graduation ceremony.
"Today is graduation. It's an accomplishment of everything I've done!" he said. "It feels good, feels real good! Makes you feel proud, but sad too, because my sister isn't here, but I'm still smiling."
Travis and his sister, Melanie, were supposed to have graduated back in 2014, but it all changed on December 6, 2013, when the two went for a bike ride on State Road 50. Investigators said a driver in a black Mercedes hit and killed Melanie, then took off. Travis suffered brain damage and was paralyzed.
"He wasn't supposed to walk," said mother Tina. "For the first six months, they told me to continue making funeral arrangements." But everyday, Travis continued to make strides in his recovery. "I'm happy that my son just started walking. It's been a journey that he just started walking and feeling accomplished what faith can do. We're hoping five to 10 years from now, he'll be independent."
Travis has plans to go to vocational school and hopes to be an engineer one day. For Tina, it's been a roller coaster of emotions, but she continues to have faith. "He's my inspiration, I thought I had it hard with the cancer and being a single mom, but seeing him, literally die and be revived and go through a process of therapy and walking we don't have a reason to complain he doesn't complain. So he's my inspiration right?" "Ya," said Travis.
Since the fatal accident, Tina has helped lobby for tougher penalties when it comes to deadly hit and run accidents. There's now a minimum of four years in prison. "It helps a lot to change the behavior in people with tougher laws."
On June 20, driver Kila Holland will be sentenced for the deadly hit-and-run incident involving Melanie and Travis. She pleaded no contest in the case. "We want to let my daughter rest in peace and close that chapter so we can go on with our life."
As this Winter Park student gets his diploma, he says the last few years have been a valuable lesson in life. He believes his sister is watching over him like a guardian angel. "She'll be walking with me. I know for sure." Tina says, "When you have so much, through doctors and medicine telling you the opposite and you see a miracle before you it's amazing."
Tina wants to remind drivers to slow down, and avoid texting and driving, especially as kids get out of school for the summer.