3 years after breaking neck in accident, WSU law student pushes forward

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A split-second decision on a sunny summer day changed a young man's life forever. But three years after breaking his neck, he's breaking new ground.

Taylor Janssen and his dog, Beau, are pretty much best buds. The service dog was a gift given to Taylor three years ago after his accident.

"My head hit the bottom of the lake pretty quick and from that point on, basically everything changed."

He was 19, playing beach volleyball with friends on an island in the middle of Sherwood Lake. The ball went into the water and he dove in after it.

"I had lived on this lake my whole life and it was a split second of not really thinking and it changed the entire trajectory of my life."

It was a change that could have left him in deep despair, but instead of letting his disability stop him it seemed, instead, to push himself even harder. After a year of rehab he was back at the University of Michigan for his junior year.

"What I really was most excited about was getting back to school and getting my degree and getting that finished. A lot of that was a testament to the health and support I had."

And it was so much support during such a difficult time. Taylor lost his mother to breast cancer in 2014. When he had his accident in 2015, his father and family and friends, rallied around him.

Now, fast forward to 2018.

Taylor graduated from the Ross School of Business just a couple of months ago and now, next month he's off to law school.

"I was fortunate to get a scholarship at Wayne State," he says. "I think what I realized after the accident is my brain remains my most powerful weapon. (I'm) continuing to learn every day and doing what I can to sharpen that tool, is what excites me most about going forward."

Going forward and not looking back, at the age of 22, Taylor is wise beyond his years.

"I've learned it's not always going to be easy," he said. "And I think the most important thing you can do is not cut yourself off, and embrace the support that's out there, whether it be family, friends or the community.

"If I can share my story with other people and show them that even if you're facing some challenges in life, you can keep pushing forward."

Taylor's next goal is learning how to drive a new van outfitted just for him so he can get back and forth between law school and his new apartment in Detroit. And of course, Beau, will be right beside him - all the way.

"He's a really great dog and I'm pretty excited to bring him with me. He'll get to enjoy some lectures."

Taylor is about to turn 23 and law school starts later this month.