Receiving advice from Haley Scott DeMaria

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Haley Scott DeMaria

DeMaria offers advice for Xavier students with her unique perspective on life’s adversities. DeMaria cherishes many memories she had as a Xavier Gator, especially as a freshwoman who had to make new friends and enjoy new experiences with which current and incoming freshwomen can identify.

Jenna Burch, Staff Writer

Xavier alumna Haley Scott DeMaria ’91 is a celebrity and an inspiration to the many current Xavier students who read her book “What Though the Odds: Haley Scott’s Journey of Faith and Triumph,” which was assigned in the 2020 summer reading curriculum.

DeMaria was an exceptional swimmer who won the state championship her sophomore year at Xavier and went on to swim at the University of Notre Dame. 

On January 24, 1992, DeMaria was in a tragic bus crash when returning home from a swim meet at Northwestern, which caused many injuries, two fatalities and left DeMaria paralyzed from the waist down. DeMaria was told that she would never walk again and would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Within a year DeMaria miraculously not only walked but swam again.

DeMaria says that the biggest challenge she faced in her recovery was emotional healing, as opposed to physical healing.

She offers advice and empathy for students who might also be facing emotional challenges: “Emotional challenges can’t be seen; so they are harder to recognize and therefore, harder to address and heal. And, in many ways, the emotional challenges don’t ever go away. Trauma changes you and you don’t overcome it; the emotional challenge is to learn to live with it, be happy and thrive.”

DeMaria credits Xavier for much of her determination on her road to recovery and life skills in general. “Social skills didn’t come easily or naturally to me, and it was bumpy sometimes. But I am grateful for the experiences and lessons I learned while making the transition to Xavier because it made my transition to college easier,” said DeMaria. 

She humbly offers advice for Xavier students, including her niece who will be a baby gator next year, saying, “Get involved! I didn’t do many activities (besides swimming) when I was a student and I wish I had. I think I would have met more of my classmates and, perhaps, found new hobbies and passions I didn’t know about.”

DeMaria also offers a few of her favorite quotes that have guided her through life’s adversities. First is a quote that she read in Fitzgerald Hall at Xavier which reads, “May all who enter know that Jesus is the reason for this school.” 

“It’s so simple. Jesus is the reason, but it is so hard to follow His example sometimes,” said DeMaria. 

“I also love the gospel reading, Matthew chapter 6 that says, ‘Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.’ I think about this all year and look forward to hearing it each year at Mass during the Lenten season,” said DeMaria. 

She talks about this quote on her podcast and feels that it is a “reminder that we are not to seek praise for the good works we do; we should do them humbly. I think about this in my words and actions; ‘why am I doing this? For good? Or for a pat on the back?’”

Lastly, DeMaria admires these lyrics from Billy Joel’s song “It’s All About Soul”: “It’s gonna get dark, it’s gonna get cold; you gotta get tough, but that ain’t enough. It’s all about soul.” 

“Life is hard and I have certainly had some really hard times that were tough to get through. Billy Joel uses the word ‘soul’ and I interpret that as faith. When life gets dark and cold, we have to be tough, but we also need our faith,” said DeMaria.