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Teen who survived bullet to his brain continues to beat the odds

Posted at 11:30 PM, Dec 17, 2019

Six years later after being shot in the head, Balaal Hollings continues to inspire others.

Taking a look back at his story, Hollings already faced hardship in high school when his mother died. She was his family’s sole provider. His sister stepped up to take care of him.

Hollings did his best to honor his mother’s memory by achieving. He was on the honor roll and elected homecoming king at Northwestern High School in Detroit. Then, in April 2013, he tried to break up a fight at a party. Someone fired a gun shooting him in the head.

His sister asked for justice. The shooter to this day has not been identified. Some thought he wouldn’t graduate high school due to his injury.

Through it all, he surprised his school class by not only graduating, but walking at his commencement ceremony. Hollings spoke about his gratitude to God and the work he had to do to relearn how to walk and talk. The video went viral across the nation. But Hollings’ struggles weren’t over.

“I didn’t think I would make it at times,” Hollings said.

He got accepted to Eastern Michigan University, but try juggling classes and enough work to support yourself, but if you don’t get enough sleep you have seizures due to a brain injury.

“There were times I had seizures when nobody was there," Hollings said. "By the grace of God, sometimes a roommate or someone would walk past."

He says repeatedly he found himself homeless.

“Unfortunately, this summer I did face housing insecurity," he said. "I actually had to sleep in a bathroom."

He said he was confronted by Eastern Michigan University Police, who responded with kindness.

So many people would give up. Hollings l joined student government and created a committee to help students with housing or food insecurity. Now he’s again done something that many, even he, didn’t think was possible.

He has walked across an even bigger stage graduating at EMU last Sunday.

“I always say: if you don’t fly, run. If you don’t run, walk. If you don’t walk, crawl. But by all means keep moving forward,” Hollings said.

And sometimes, it's important to take a break to dance, as Hollings did at his multicultural graduation celebration.

Hollings now knows the next struggle will be finding employment. He has majored in communications and minored in leadership. He hopes to work in a position where he has the power to continue to inspire others.

This article was written by Kim Russell for WXYZ .