For Destiny Tribley, going to Costa Rica with her high school choir was more than just a fun trip.
It was the first step toward independence.
Destiny, 17, has a traumatic brain injury, incurred as a baby. She must take medication every day to prevent seizures, and her injuries have made it difficult for her to learn.
She will likely stay at Schenectady High School until age 21, as a special education student.
But she wanted to prove to her parents that she will someday be ready to live on her own. So she asked her parents for permission to go to Costa Rica and sing with the choir.
Her father, Doug Tribley, was torn between pride and worry.
He had been trying to get her to take her anti-seizure medication on her own, but she often forgot. Even an alarm on her iPod didn’t keep her consistent.
Letting her go wasn’t easy. She had to talk him into it.
Eventually, he decided that a nine-day trip surrounded by friends was a good first step.
“See if she can follow through with what she said she’d do,” he said. “Be responsible to take her medicines.”
The trip came with dozens of unexpected challenges. To raise money, Destiny worked with other students at the school snack bar. There, she struggled to make change.
Then she had to figure out how to fit nine days of clothes in a suitcase — another first — and take her first airplane ride. At the end of the long trip, she was presented with a lengthy Customs form to fill out.
It needed her passport number. But there were three numbers on her passport.
She got help from another choir member, who volunteered to be her “buddy” for the entire trip.
Sharon Therrien said it turned out she was never needed.
“She did everything on her own,” she said. “But I made sure she had the medicine on time.”
Every time Destiny’s iPod alarm went off, Therrien watched discreetly to make sure the other girl actually took her medicine. Destiny never skipped a dose.
When they bought food and souvenirs, Therrien made sure no one took advantage of Destiny. She simply stood next to her, verifying the cost of each item. No one tried to overcharge Destiny.
Nine days went by without a single problem.
“I was so pleased,” teacher Krista Hawk said. “Ten girls on the trip and nine of them just watched over Destiny. Like swimming in the ocean for the first time, flying for the first time — we all gave her some space but kept an eye on her and watched her grow.”
She came home a much more mature young woman, her father said.
“It taught her a lot,” he said.
She takes her medication on her own now. She does her chores without being reminded. She told her parents that she wants to start learning how to cook — the next step toward independence.
“I don’t want to stay at home all the time now,” she said. “I want to learn stuff on my own. I want to do stuff on my own.”
She said she’s still scared to move out — but now she’s sure she can do it, someday.
Hawk is delighted.
“Since sixth grade, I’ve seen her mature,” she said. “[On the trip] she became far more independent and much more confident that she could do this.”