Commack High School senior Riley Patterson enjoyed homecoming on Sept. 23, all while recalling the day her life changed two years ago.
"I was at cheerleading practice and I was holding up another cheerleader," the senior said. "Then the girl fell on my face."
Patterson suffered a concussion, had to stop cheering and needed to be homeschooled for more than a year due to the incident, which also resulted in a neck injury. Having to leave her friends and fellow cheerleaders behind left her feeling isolated.
"It was very hard for me," the 17-year-old explained. "I was not at school and I had no friends around."
Patterson returned to school in the middle of her junior year. It was then she realized she could not do what she loved -- cheering.
"It was very upsetting," she said. "I've been cheering since the sixth grade and in one day it was all taken away."
Patterson still suffers from the effects of her concussion, including headaches and some issues remembering things. But despite her obstacles, Patterson continues to move forward. She became a manager of the cheerleading team this year, and is enjoying her new role.
"I help out the team any way I can, whether it is helping with makeup or clothing orders," she said. "I'm getting back to it slowly."
And the team is happy she’s back around, too.
"Riley is hard working and dedicated and we are thankful she is a part of this squad," Commack varsity cheerleading coach Chelsea Portnoy said.
Patterson said that the incident helped her realize the strength she has within.
"This is the best and the worst thing that has ever happened to me," she said. "Coming back took a lot of courage and it showed me how strong I am. It changed my perspective on many things and it's made me a more positive person."