- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Kevin and Haley Carroll are eager to get back to their important roles as part of the Class of 2016.

He is a beloved principal of a high school and she is a senior in her last year of school. The father and daughter haven’t had the regular joys that are pictured in yearbooks.

Instead, both have had time they are so thankful for, even though it came way of very bad news.

Both stepped away from school this year because Haley, now 18, was diagnosed with lymphoma in July. She had a tumor removed from her intestine in August and spent the last four months receiving five rounds of chemotherapy at University of California, San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital.

Carroll was hand-picked to take over the struggling high school in Sparks in 2013, and normally would have spent the last few months embracing the group of students he has helped groom starting as sophomores.

Sparks High School announced its highest graduation rate earlier this year, hitting 74 percent for the Class of 2015. It proves Carroll’s impact, but it’s his connection with students that is powerful, said his boss.

Washoe County School District Area Superintendent Debra Biersdorff said this situation reminds everyone that kids aren’t just numbers and test scores. “They are human beings, not just a graduation rate.”

Biersdorff said Carroll has always been the kind of leader that knew that.

“When you see him with students in the hallway, it’s not always just, ‘Hi, how are you?’ It’s, ‘You did great in the game Friday night. I see that you got that math grade up. How’s your sister doing?’”

Carroll said three weeks into this school year he knew he had to take a leave of absence.

“She was heating up leftovers in the microwave and she had a seizure,” Carroll said of his daughter’s reaction to a medication. “We were just having dinner; then this terrible thing happened.”

His daughter shook violently as he talked to a 911 dispatcher.

“I remember sitting in the hospital with her after this happened. I was thinking about a meeting I had at work the next day and that I wouldn’t make it to the meeting,” he said. “I realized I had to be there for my daughter 100 percent.”

Haley, who has always been close with both her parents, now has a special bond that most seniors don’t get when they are focused on the typical high school experiences and senior traditions.

While many seniors are asserting their independence the last year of high school, Haley has bravely appreciated not having it.

She is thankful for the time she has had with both her parents during her senior year. Her mom, April, also took a leave from her position with the school district.

“She is so brave,” said Carroll, on one of the father-and-daughter regular trips for coffee. “She is thankful she had an easier type of cancer. She said she thinks she is lucky.”

Haley said she knows it has been hard for her parents. Watching them worry about her should involve dances and dates not cancer and chemotherapy.

Father and daughter say the experience has changed their lives for the better.

Haley will study nursing at the University of Nevada, Reno next year after graduation from Wooster High School in June.

“I will have an understanding of what patients are going through,” she said of her plans to someday work in an oncology unit.

Carroll said this experience has made him a more compassionate principal.

“If I ever have a student or family going through something like this, I will be different. I am different, now.”

Carroll plans to return to school in mid-December. After tests to make sure she is cancer free and a surgery on her abdomen in San Francisco, Haley will officially start her senior year in January.

“I’m excited just to get back to all the regular things of senior year,” Haley said.

Carroll is too, except for maybe those dates and dances.

___

Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com

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