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Webster Student Recovers From Accident

James Groenier joins fellow high schoolers on recent trip to China

James Groenier (foreground) was able to join Webster Groves High School students and teachers on a recent trip to China. Groenier spent months recovering from being hit by a car near Webster University in 2016. photo courtesy James Groenier.

July 06, 2018
Nearly two years after an accident left Webster Groves High School student James Groenier unable to walk or attend classes for several months, life has turned around for the bright and determined senior.

Groenier recently returned from a once-in-a-lifetime experience with more than a dozen other students and two Webster Groves High School teachers who traveled to China for a week's worth of studies at the Beijing Language and Culture University. Groenier is especially grateful for the experience.

Two years ago, he spent weeks in a hospital bed and months recovering after being hit by a car in September 2016. He was using the crosswalk at Edgar Road and Garden Avenue in front of the Webster University library when he was hit by a vehicle, then pinned underneath it and dragged through the intersection.

The teen suffered burns to both legs, both arms and abdomen, suffered a concussion, multiple bone breaks, and extensive injuries to his left knee and shoulder. He had other severe injuries, but fortunately did not suffer any head trauma.

A month-long hospital stay, medical appointments, surgeries and extensive physical therapy followed. He missed several months of school, but worked hard at home with tutors to keep up with his classes. Groenier's friends and classmates visited often, helping him with school work and keeping his spirits up. They even organized a concert that raised thousands of dollars to help his family shoulder the mounting medical bills.

Despite missing two semesters of school, Groenier's grades haven't suffered. In addition to being an Honor Roll student, he recently scored a 35 on the ACT, just shy of a perfect score of 36 on the college entrance exam. The trip to China adds experiential learning credits to his academic career.

Groenier and the 15 other students, the majority from Webster Groves High School, traveled to China in the beginning of June. They spent eight months preparing for the trip, meeting for two hours after school every week to learn Chinese from an instructor with the Confucius Institute at Webster University. The two-week trip was a partnership through the Confucius Institute in St. Louis and the Beijing Language and Culture University in China.

Their time at the university was split between cultural experiences and delving further into the language. In addition to language studies, students had an opportunity to try their hand at Chinese painting, paper cutting and other cultural traditions. The week culminated with each student giving a presentation in Chinese.

"It was an incredible and unique once-in-a-lifetime experience," Groenier said. "We got to be immersed in the culture and we learned a lot."

The group also did a lot of sight-seeing, visiting favorite tourist sites such as the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Army sculptures and more. A former Webster Groves High School student who now lives in China helped serve as their travel guide.

Although Groenier has spent the better part of the past 21 months recovering from his injuries, he's been able to return to most previous activities.

"I still do physical therapy, but nothing really hinders me on a daily basis," he said.

Groenier is on track to graduate from Webster Groves High School next spring and would like to attend Washington University to study business.

The driver of the vehicle who hit him, who witnesses say ran a red light, was charged with failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, according to the Groenier family.

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