Colorado Springs high school graduate breaks through barriers


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — She’s broken more bones than she can count, but she’s stronger than ever before. This new high school graduate is proving that while bodies can break, the human spirit is indestructible.

“I would describe myself as funny, compassionate and loving,” said Mara Jade Smith, a senior at Sand Creek High School.

“She’s just a rockstar,” said Elisabeth Ellis, Mara Jade’s mother.

“I’m no different than any other person, I’m just the same as other kids,” said Mara Jade. “Yes, I have a condition, but that doesn’t stop me.”

Mara Jade was born with a rare genetic bone disorder called osteogenisis imperfecta.

“She was so fragile we were carrying her on a pillow,” said Ellis.

The disorder is also known as brittle bone disease.

“There was one time I walked past her and she kind of kicked her leg out, and I didn’t see her leg so my leg touched her leg and it broke,” said Ellis. “She’s broken her bones catching a beach ball.”

FOX21’s Abbie Burke first met Mara Jade several years ago as an aspiring cheerleader in elementary school.

“From elementary to middle school was kind of the roughest years because you know being little, getting teased a lot wasn’t really that cool, but once I got into high school I felt more like I fit in with people,” said Mara Jade.

Burke caught up with her again in high school. Mara Jade still had her spunky spirit, but she had a new dream of becoming a senior.

Two years later, Mara Jade is graduating from Sand Creek High School, and she’s dreaming big yet again.

“I’m planning on going into cosmetology,” she said. “I’ve already looked into Paul Mitchell and then a couple years after that, once I get my certificate, I’m planning on becoming a dispatcher.”

Mara Jade’s senior year fun was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and because of her condition, she is considered to be high risk.

“My lungs aren’t the greatest and my health is really not the greatest, so I kind of have to be careful,” said Mara Jade.

However, she wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to see her classmates one last time at graduation.

“I really love being with the teachers and my friends and just being with people that I care about,” said Mara Jade.

Graduation is a rite of passage and another sign of Mara Jade’s growing independence.

“There’s always a way to do what you want to do. You just have to find out what it is and how you’re going to do it and then later on you can reach that goal,” she said. “This last year I’ve been learning how to transfer on my own. I transfer from my bed to my chair, my chair to my bed, right now we are working on trying to have me transfer onto a toilet from my chair.”

“I have to leave the room sometimes when she’s doing a hard thing because I can’t get myself past that oh my gosh, this could happen and so I kind of have to slip away sometimes, or look away,” said Ellis. “That’s really hard, just seeing what could happen but keeping quiet and just letting her push through.”

As she’s gotten older, Mara Jade’s bones have gotten stronger, and she’s had rods put inside her body to help protect the bones in her arms and legs.

“I haven’t broken a bone in a long time,” said Mara Jade.

But she still has to be careful.

“Last year I kind of jerked from trying to get out of a neighbor’s yard and it broke pretty bad to the point I had to get surgery,” said Mara Jade.

“She’s very fragile but she’s in a position now where she can keep herself more protected,” said Ellis.

Her spirit has gotten stronger with age too.

“I have this necklace here I kind of like and it says ‘you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think,'” she said.

It’s advice Mara Jade has taken to heart, and her mom said there’s no doubt her daughter will continue to exceed expectations.

“I’m just excited to see where she goes and whose lives she’ll touch,” said Ellis.

Because you don’t have to be big, to make a big difference.

“It’s true, no matter how small you are, you are pretty smart, you’re pretty strong and you’re just amazing,” said Mara Jade.

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