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Cronkite student considers ASU a healing experience

Skylar Mason makes her dorm bed

Skylar Mason (right) makes her bed with the help of her sister, Hannah, 16, as she moves into Taylor Place on Friday, Aug. 14. A year before, she survived a horrific car accident that killed her father, and now the Barrett scholar is embarking on a degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

August 24, 2015

Editor's note: This story is part of our back-to-school spotlight on notable incoming students. The series will run during the first two weeks of the fall semester. Read our other profiles here.

Skylar Mason has had a difficult year.

She lost her dad in a violent car accident last summer that also dulled her senses, broke her bones and put her in the hospital for three weeks.

It was a difficult time, but the freshman in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication is looking forward to her first year at Arizona State University rather than looking back in despair.

“I know my dad wouldn’t want me to dwell on the past so much that it might inhibit my future,” said the 18-year-old Tucson native, who will also be in Barrett, The Honors College.

“I’m hoping my experience here is everything he would have hoped for.”

Mason survived the devastating car crash that instantly claimed the life of her 48-year-old father, Karl, when a woman driving a Chevy truck ran a red light and crashed into the Masons' Volkswagen Beetle. The July 20, 2014, accident shattered her skull, detached her left retina and rendered her left ear permanently deaf.   

Spending a majority of the year with physical, speech and occupational therapists, and in surgery — six surgeries in all — Mason started her senior year at Tucson’s Ironwood Ridge High School in the second quarter.

Still, she never gave up hope of achieving her long-held dream to attend ASU this fall.

Flipped perspective

Mason has long held a fascination with writing.

She wrote poetry in grade school and several novels during her middle school years. But she fell in love with journalism her freshman year and eventually became editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper, Iron Quill, for two years.

“I was super introverted when I started and found out real quick you can’t be if you want to be a journalist,” Mason said. “Among other things, journalism has taught me how to interact with people.”

After the accident, which received its fair share of media coverage in the Tucson area, Mason experienced journalism from a real-world perspective.

“It’s definitely a lot more stressful being on the other side,” Mason said. “But it was a blessing in disguise because it was a good experience to talk about my father and help rehabilitate my speech.”

Moving forward

Mason’s speech was up to speed when she moved into Taylor Place on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus with some assistance from her mother, Meta; sister, Hannah; and brother, Kody.

Meta Mason said the family unit has always been tight and that they’ve pulled through a very difficult time by sticking close to each other.

“She’s my best friend, and we’ve never lived apart,” said Hannah, 16. “It’s the start of a new chapter in her life, and it’s sad to close the other chapter.”

Meta said their family’s strength in overcoming tragedy and change comes from the love and support of others.

“We thrive because our community, family, church and friends have carried us all this time,” Meta said. “We don’t know why Karl was taken from us and often we don’t understand. Sometimes you can’t look at the big problem but just look ahead.”

Skylar Mason says she’s looking forward to meeting new friends, getting involved in clubs and activities, finding a church and embracing the college experience.

She says there are good days and bad when it comes to remembering her father, but a trip she took to the Cronkite School with him in 2013 when she was checking out journalism schools is a happy one she won’t soon forget.

“He loved the Cronkite School and said, ‘This place will give you the resources to give you the career you want,’ ” Mason said.

“He believed in this place, and so do I.”