WATCH: Paralyzed teen walks across stage to get high school diploma
BOSTON (WCVB) – A high school senior in Massachusetts who was paralyzed during a hockey game took a big step Friday during his graduation.
Determined to walk again, Jake Thibeault was able to receive his diploma standing on his own two feet.
As Jake rolled his wheelchair across the lawn as part of the graduating class at Milton Academy, nobody was quite sure if he would be able to keep a promise he’d made to himself nine months ago.
During a youth hockey game, Jake collided with another player, hit the boards and dropped to the ice, leaving him with two broken bones in his back and paralyzed from the waist down.
He then became laser-focused on one goal: to walk again.
By February, Jake was crawling, pushing through hours of grueling physical therapy nearly every day.
“They were just like, ‘Oh, try by yourself,’” he said. “And I made it two mats and I was like, ‘OK, holy cow.’”
A few weeks later, he was back on campus. But as graduation day approached, his goal started to seem out of reach.
“We kind of realized that he wouldn’t necessarily be able to walk under his own power, but he was still determined, in his words, to be vertical,” Mike Thibeault, Jake’s father, said.
When his name was called at the graduation ceremony, Jake started rolling his wheelchair across the stage.
He then stopped… and stood up.
With leg braces and a walker, but completely on his own, Jake took 30 steps and crossed his personal finish line.
And with that action, the graduates struck out into the world, led by a living example that nothing is impossible.
“Just an overwhelming feeling of being proud for Jake, never more honored to be his father,” Mike Thibeault said.
Jake is headed to Babson college to study in the fall. His father said Jake is as determined as ever to walk even better and go even further.
Copyright 2022 WCVB via CNN Newsource. All rights reserved.