Kristene Chapa starts college as her alleged shooter still awaits trial

Kristene Chapa has faced more adversity and barriers to overcome than the average young adult, but she as never stopped pushing to accomplish her goals. Now, in a bittersweet moment in her life, she has started college as she continues to await justice for her alleged shooter.

Kristene, now 21, has enrolled at Coastal Bend Community College for the Fall. She's taking an English class to start – it's one of her strongest subjects, and has mixed emotions about college. In an exlusive statement to GLAAD, she said, "I'm excited about starting college but nervous at the same time because I'm different now. I just don't want to be judged. It's my first step to being independent again [after] 3 years."

In 2012, at age eighteen, Kristene and her girlfriend, Mollie Olgin, were sexually assaulted before being shot execution style at a park in their south Texas town. Kristene woke up in the hospital in critical condition, unable to open her eyes, speak or move most of the left side of her body. Mollie did not survive. After two years, an arrest was made.

The suspect in their attack, David Strickland, is charged with capital murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated sexual assault, and aggravated kidnapping. The trial has been postponed several times and is now scheduled for February 2016. As Kristene and the young women's families are waiting for justice, Kristene told GLAAD they "need all the support we can get."

After the attack, Kristene's family set up a fundraising page to raise money for Kristene's extensive medical bills, which often are paid by her family, out-of-pocket. Fifteen months later, the Chapa family has finally met their initial goal. Because of her dedication to the therapy that's been made possible in part by donations to her fundraising page, Kristene is now able to start the challenging new adventure that, three years ago, did not seem within reach.

Though the family's initial GoFundMe goal was met, Kristene's recovery is still ongoing. Her family continues to pay the substantial expenses for physical therapy and has begun to pay for Kristene's college education. Their need for financial support is not over.

In the past three years, Kristene has overcome so much, both physically and mentally. The support she has received, not only from her local community but also from people around the world, has not only motivated her to never give up, but has enabled her to get the necessary medical care that she continues to need. She routinely posts updates on her personal Facebook page, sharing the progress that she's made, expressing gratitude for her supporters and her deeply-held faith in God.

This past May, Kristene and her mother were invited to the 2015 GLAAD Media Awards, where she was received on-stage with a standing ovation from the audience. Her moving and inspirational speech brought the room to tears. GLAAD has been working closely with Kristene, empowering her to share her story in her own words on a national scale.

Show your support for Kristene by continuing to donate toward her medical bills as she continues down the road to recovery. We've got your back, Kristene!