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After Emotional Recovery, McKinley Second Grader Welcomed Back to Santa Barbara Classroom

Beverly Comacho spent weeks in the hospital after she and her mother were hit by a car in a downtown crosswalk

Second grader Beverly Comacho is welcomed back to school by her classmates and teacher Laura Lewis-Rodriguez.
Second grader Beverly Comacho is welcomed back to school by her classmates and teacher Laura Lewis-Rodriguez.  (Barbara Keyani / Santa Barbara Unified School District photo)

When second-grade teacher Laura Lewis-Rodriguez heard the news that one of her students had been struck by a car, she had one thought.

“I thought, please don’t let it be Beverly,” the McKinley Elementary School teacher recalled. 

Beverly Comacho is the shy 7-year-old in Lewis-Rodriguez’s classroom who walked with her older brother each day from school to the downtown homeless shelter where they lived with their mom.

The little girl was new at the school, and often looked at the floor, a habit that Lewis-Rodriguez would gently correct each time she saw it happen.

“Stand up straight, you’re important,” the teacher would say.

Lewis-Rodriguez was familiar with the challenges of the girl and her family, but soon learned that it was indeed Beverly who had been a victim in the car accident.

She had been critically injured on Oct. 23 when she was struck by a vehicle while crossing the street in a downtown crosswalk with her mother.

The accident happened at the corner of Ortega and Santa Barbara streets when Beverly and her mother, Sandra Mora, were hit by a driver making a right-hand turn.

Mora was also injured in the collision but it was little Beverly who had gotten most of the impact.  

Bystanders reported that the vehicle hit her so hard that her shoes flew off.

The driver, 28-year-old Adriana Augustini, who is a Brazilian citizen and did not have a license or insurance, told police that the sun had been in her eyes, and she hadn’t seen the pair in the crosswalk.

She was issued a citation for the right-of-way violation, not having proof of insurance or having her license in her possession.

Sandra Mora, left, and her daughter Beverly Comacho were hit by a vehicle Oct. 23 while crossing the street at a downtown intersection. Click to view larger
Sandra Mora, left, and her daughter Beverly Comacho were hit by a vehicle Oct. 23 while crossing the street at a downtown intersection. (Laura Lewis-Rodriguez photo)

Beverly and her mom were transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, where the girl was treated for brain injuries.

When Lewis-Rodriguez and McKinley first-grade teacher Elizabeth Oakley arrived at the hospital the next morning, they found Beverly’s mother and the hospital chaplain with the little girl, who was in a coma.

“We all prayed together,” Lewis-Rodriguez said, adding that was the mother’s only request for her daughter.

The school district organized a fund to help pay for Beverly’s medical care, even though her family never asked for any money, Lewis-Rodriguez said.

“We wanted to do that for them,” she said.

More than $10,000 has been raised for her at her GoFundMe page, which is ongoing to help pay for the family’s needs and medical bills.

While Beverly was having surgeries done at Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, Lewis-Rodriguez gave edited updates to her young students. 

Lewis-Rodriguez has both first- and second-grade students in her classes, and was careful what she told her them, stating that their classmate had been injured but was receiving good care at the hospital.

But the teacher knew that the young girl was in a coma.

“I knew there was a possibility she might not come back at all, and if she did, I didn’t know how her cognitive abilities might be,” she said.  

McKinley Elementary School students wrote cards to Beverly Comacho after she was hit by a car at a downtown intersection. Click to view larger
McKinley Elementary School students wrote cards to Beverly Comacho after she was hit by a car at a downtown intersection. (Laura Lewis-Rodriguez photo)

That’s why Lewis-Rodriguez and other McKinley teachers were shocked when they learned Beverly would be well enough to return to school last week, just over a month after her accident.

“When can I go back to school?” was one of the first questions the little girl asked her mother when she awoke.

Before her first day back at class, Lewis-Rodriguez met with little Beverly to bring her the handmade cards from her classmates.

The pair met at the Eastside Library, where the teacher pulled out 27 cards.  

“Our hearts are with you,” one card said in handwritten elementary script.

As the little girl looked through each card, both the teacher and her student wept.

When the day for her return came, McKinley Principal Emilio Handall brought 25 balloons to school, and announced at an all-school assembly that Beverly would be coming back to school that day.

Beverly’s classmates were so excited that they hid in the class and surprised her when she walked in.

“They have been so happy to embrace her return,” Lewis-Rodriguez said.

Other than being a “little bit wobbly,” Beverly has done well in her week at school, and doesn’t appear to have any cognitive impairments from the accident, she said.

“It’s a miracle,” Lewis-Rodriguez said. “This little girl has a very special place in my heart.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Second grader Beverly Comacho, top center, is welcomed back to school by her fellow McKinley Elementary School classmates and teacher Laura Lewis-Rodriguez. Click to view larger
Second grader Beverly Comacho, top center, is welcomed back to school by her fellow McKinley Elementary School classmates and teacher Laura Lewis-Rodriguez.  (Barbara Keyani / Santa Barbara Unified School District photo)

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