CHICAGO (CBS) — Michelle Henton, the student commencement speaker at Roosevelt University Friday, shared a message of hope and perseverance.

A car accident years ago left her unable to walk, but she told CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole it somehow gave her the will to move forward.

Michelle Henton has quite a tale to tell.

“I was faced with fight or flight and I chose flight,” she said. “I chose not to be defeated in the face of adversity.”

Not just about living, but living a purposeful life.

“My path was extremely turbulent and so challenging that this very moment was almost nonexistent,” she said. “I just wanted to get my degree today and look at all of this.”

Henton was a cosmetologist in 2002 when a night of drinking ended in a car crash that left her in a wheelchair.

“My thoughts were filled with self doubt hopelessness and worthlessness,” she said. “I always wanted my sanity and just to be OK.”

Questioning her present helped Henton find her future.

“What does it take to be healthy in this chair and how do I remain being myself in this chair,” she said.

It led her to Roosevelt University, a bachelor’s degree and now a masters in clinical psychology. The 37-year-old from Austin is surrounded by a large and loving family.

She thought of them during one last sound check, before reminding so many what’s possible even in the darkest of times.

“When you think everything is in despair, just know you can find a light even in despair,” said Henton.

Henton plans to work with veterans and others who have gone through traumatic moments.