Bentonville Archives - StoryCorps

At The End Of High School, A Special Kind Of Thank You

Cole Phillips was like most teenagers heading into their first year of high school, wanting to make friends and fit in. But Cole, unlike his peers, had recently become blind due to complications from glaucoma. And he had the extra burden of an adult following him from class to class.

That was Rugenia Keefe, known as Miss Ru. Rugenia is a paraprofessional who assisted Cole with many of his most difficult subjects — attending class, taking notes, and ultimately becoming a friend and confidant.

Over the four years they worked together, Miss Ru and Cole came to rely on each other’s humor and humility. So, when Cole got an assignment to “record someone who made an impact on your time in high school” for a senior project, there was no question in Cole’s mind whom to interview — it had to be Miss Ru.  

Top Photo: Rugenia Keefe (left) and Cole Phillips at Bentonville West High School. Courtesy of Cole Phillips.

Originally aired June 19, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.