VERNON - For Vernon High School Senior Dana Douglas, college was never an option; it was a plan - a plan that her mother, Alma Douglas, was proactive in helping map out.
"My mother really cared about my education and wanted me to further it," said Douglas. "It was never an option; I was going to college."
When Douglas received the news her mother and aunt were killed in a traffic crash Saturday, Dec. 30, she says she reached through her grief to hold tightly to fulfilling her mother's hopes.
"I am getting my education, and I am doing it in my mother's honor," she said. "She was a really strong person - dedicated and my best friend. She worked hard to provide me with nice things, and I am going to work hard to graduate from college and make her proud."
Douglas is not alone in her journey.
VHS Principal Brian Riviere announced the school will be helping Douglas by establishing an education fund to help offset expenses from her Senior year and the launch of her college career.
"Through the remainder of this school year, Dana will have expenses associated with being a senior at VHS. We also want to ensure these things are provided for her," Riviere stated in a social media post.
"One thing Ms. Alma insisted on was that Dana would continue her education beyond high school. There was never a discussion of 'if' she was going to college; instead it was always 'where' she’d be going to college. We are simply going to ensure this for Ms. Alma now that she is gone."
Florida Highway Patrol reports Alma Douglas and her sister-in-law, Flora Mae Douglas, were killed and seven other people injured in a two-car wreck Saturday on State 79 at the intersection with James Potter Road.
Riviere expressed another message of support for Dana Douglas on Sunday:
"Dana is so very strong. However, Dana, this strength will be tested in the coming days, months, and years," he said. "There will be days that feel like the world is crumbling around you. On these days, it’s important to remember all that has been instilled in you… [Your mother] has laid a foundation in you that cannot be taken away. She has prepared you for the phenomenal future you are destined for. You are a strong young woman of multiple talents, a strong work ethic, and tremendous self worth. I know your mother, as well as your tremendous support system, will watch over you constantly with great pride and love."
Dana Douglas says having such a show of support from her VHS family and the Washington County community has helped ease her sadness.
"We really do live in an awesome community," she said. "I thank everyone for their prayers and support. I never expected something like this to come out of something so bad."
While Douglas is grateful for the outpouring of support, she has one additional request to make:
"Hold your loved ones tight," she said. "You never know when it's going to be the last time you'll see them."
Donations may be dropped off after Jan. 4 at Vernon High School or mailed to VHS at 3232 Moss Hill Rd, Vernon FL. 32462. Make checks payable to Vernon High School and note in the memo line: "Dana Douglas Educational Fund."
VHS will give receipts for all donations.