Topeka Joe White made a bad decision as a senior at Washburn Rural High School and he’s now urging other youths in Kansas to not follow in his footsteps.
In 2006, White had been drinking and was being filmed when he jumped out of a moving car.
Instead of winning adulation for his antics — which he said were inspired by a stunt performed in the MTV movie “Jackass Two” — he ended up with injuries so severe that he needed brain surgery to remove a clot, and he has since had to relearn how to walk and talk.
White lived in Eudora as a child, and his mother and other relatives still live there. Now 21 and a student at Washburn University, White has made a film about his life, “Sunflower Journeys,” and is spreading the word to other teens across Kansas.
“He is taking the situation that was a bad for him and turning it around to make it a positive for other kids,” said Kristen White, Joe’s stepmother.
White is partially paralyzed on his right side, but he is able to walk with a cane and leg braces. A device near his stomach delivers medicine through a tube in his back, which eases muscle tension and allows better movement.
He also had to relearn how to talk and he can’t remember all the words he used to know. His father, Bob White, says Joe sometimes calls to ask how to spell a word.
Bob White said his son is regaining control of his life, despite the hardships he has faced. He finished high school last year and is attending Washburn University. He also took an internship at KTWU-TV and has delivered his story to his alma mater high school, to Pittsburg State University, and to the Boys and Girls Club of Topeka, part of a larger plan to make a career out of motivational speaking.