Beating the odds

Ashley returned to school March 1, less than one month after surgery. However, she did not go back to Mount de Sales. Instead, she transferred back to Catonsville High School.

Mount de Sales officials told her that, because she had missed so much class, she would not be able to graduate until May 2014, a year later than she planned.

Though he thinks Mount de Sales is a great school, Craig Witzke said Ashley's decision to return to Catonsville High School was a good one.

"Mount de Sales wasn't prepared to work with a long-term illness," he said.

"They did what they could but they just weren't prepared for it," he said.

She said she doesn't regret it at all.

"I never really appreciated Catonsville (High) until they took me back," Ashley Witzke said.

"I realized I love that school. It's a great school," she said.

She said she worked as hard as she could to make up for the time she missed and, less than a year later, was able to complete all of her high school credits a full semester early.

"Even though I came in halfway through the year, I was able to catch up on the material," Ashley Witzke said.

"I don't know how I did it," she said.

"I did a lot of work," she said.

Jallo said he is impressed with her recovery and ability to jump back into the academic world.

"A lot of times, it's hard for someone who's not going to school to go back to school and excel," her doctor said.

"She's done phenomenal. She's done great," Jallo said.

"I'm very proud of her," he said.

Though she will still attend prom May 18 and walk across the stage with her peers May 29, she will already be finished with her first semester of college. She said it will be a unique experience, but that she wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's (college) definitely different from high school, but I wouldn't take another semester of high school," Ashley Witzke said.

"I love college and I'm very grateful that I got the chance to do that right away," she said.

Ashley Witzke said her illness, not only made her a stronger person, it gave her an opportunity to decide what she wanted to do with her future.

She plans to complete the mortuary science program at CCBC and work in her father's business, Craig Witzke Funeral Care, after completing the four-year program.

"I'll be the fifth generation," she said of her family's funeral home business.

"I was like, Wow! It's in my blood. I guess I have to do it," she said.