DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – At 18, Desiree Galloway already knows that it is not the challenges in life that define us, but how we respond.

A graduating senior at Dallas’ Hillcrest High, Galloway says she was born to cheer, but from birth, her body said otherwise.

Or at least it tried to.

Desiree Galloway (Robbie Owens – CBS 11)

“Her arms never straightened completely,” says Julia Therrell, Cheerleading Coach at Hillcrest. “We have motions where you have to have straight arms. So from the beginning, she already had that ‘you can’t cheer because your arms aren’t straight’. And she never let that get the best of her, her response was ‘yes, I can’!’​

And yes, she did.

Galloway eventually became Hillcrest’s Varsity Cheer captain, but in her junior year, her body betrayed her again. She was struck with Bell’s palsy.​

“The left side of my face was frozen,” recalls Galloway. “I couldn’t raise my eyebrow, couldn’t close my eye. I just lost myself, confidence, everything was just gone.”​

Teen years are tough even when you’re not “different.”

She says throughout her ordeal, her Hillcrest High family remained loyal, supportive and kind.​

“The cheer team would write cute little notes and put them in my locker for me and just let me know ‘hey you’re still my captain, no matter what you’re going through’. I had to recover…they were always there.”​

So the “born cheerleader” began to fight her way back, but she’d missed a lot of school.​

“My mom was like, ‘what do you want to do?’ And I was like, ‘I want to go to college’, and she was like, ‘let’s make it happen’. That’s when I did summer school, night school, everything.”​

Galloway will graduate with her class this weekend, and then she’s headed to college on a cheerleading scholarship!.

“Yes ma’am!” she almost screams with every ounce of that cheerleading spirit. She plans to study kinesiology.​

“Perseverance. All the time,” adds Coach Therrell. “And that’s what she’s done her whole entire life, and that in itself is an inspiration, and you add in everything else and she truly is a shining star.”​

“I want to say to the freshman, the younger kids, ‘start how you want to finish. If you start strong, you’re gonna finish strong, no matter what happens’,” advises Galloway, who then adds with a joyful burst of laughter, “I’m finishing strong! I am!”​