Bright future .... Sophie Delezio started high school on Tuesday. Sophie (pictured) in 2004 wearing her burns suit during a physio session at her home in Sydney. Photo: Kate Geraghty
WALKING through the school gates unassisted on her first day of high school was more of a milestone for Sophie Delezio than most.
The 11-year-old, who started her high school on Tuesday, was the little girl who won the nation's heart with her incredible determination, bravery and ability in overcoming the most extraordinary circumstances after not one but two tragic accidents in her young life.
Aged just two in 2003, Sophie suffered burns to 85 per cent of her body and lost both her legs, some fingers and her right ear when she and her friend Molly were trapped under a burning car that had crashed through their Fairlight day care centre's gates.
Then, in May of 2006, Sophie again made headlines when she was the victim of another tragedy near her home in the northern beaches: she was hit by a car as her nanny pushed her wheelchair across a pedestrian crossing. The then Balgowlah Heights Public kindergarten student was thrown and suffered a heart attack, a broken jaw, a broken shoulder, bruises to her head, numerous rib fractures and a tear to her lung. She spent months recovering in Sydney's Children's Hospital.
The cheeky, smiling Sophie reveals to New Idea this week that she is only just back up on her prosthetic legs after yet another operation, but with her trademark determination nothing would stop her walking to class for her first day of year 7 at her new high school.
In her new school uniform and shiny shoes, Delezio tells New Idea - on sale on Monday - that she had ''just a few butterflies'' as she took those first steps through the school gates.
''I've been looking forward to starting year 7 for ages,'' she told the magazine. ''I'm never shy around other people my age so I wouldn't say I was scared … only the tiniest bit nervous!''
Waving her off and by her side were emotional parents Ron, 59, and Carolyn, 53.
They have had a long and hard journey since the 2003 car crash which caused her horrific injuries: ''We can't believe Sophie's in high school - but in so many ways she's ready,'' Carolyn told the magazine. The couple have become fund-raisers for burns victims since the accident.
In the interview, Carolyn, a primary school teacher, also says how proud she is of her daughter's improving typing skills and that she has adapted to life as a left-handed student, affectionately calling her a ''leftie''.
The future looks bright. Sophie's bravery and tenacity equips her with the ability to conquer whatever she wants in life.