Heading into my final year of high school. I was determined to make it the best year yet.
It was Tuesday, my first therapy session of the year. My therapist and I were getting ready to take my usual lap around the school as we were walking she stopped and asked,
“Jules, what’s a goal you want to achieve before you graduate high school?
I didn’t even hesitate.
I didn’t even have to think about my answer.
I have had the goal in my heart and mind for a couple of years already and I was ready to do whatever I had to achieve it.
“I want to walk across the stage in my walker at graduation,” I replied.
She smiled. “That’s a great goal. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but we have plenty of time before graduation, so we’ll be able to do it. “
So, now that my therapist was on board, it was time to let everyone else on my team know. I told almost every single person. My para, gym teacher, academic teachers, my house administrator etc. They were all excited and were there with me the whole time, every step of the way!
I also planned on keeping it a secret from my graduating class until graduation, so I told everyone that knew already, keep your mouth closed. I don’t want any of the seniors to know. Everyone was supportive of it and told me they would keep it to themselves.
But, unfortunately, halfway through the year, the anticipation of keeping the secret away from the graduating class was starting to kill me. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. So, to make myself feel better,I told them.
Their reactions such as “I’m going to cry and I’m so excited for you.”Were truly priceless and pushed me harder than ever to build the strength up in my legs enough all year to walk the long hike up to the stage that coming June.
May 27, 2017.
4 weeks before the big day.
One of the administrator’s that was on café duty during my lunch period pulled me aside to chat with me about plans for graduation. Like how the stage was going to be set up and how myself and another student that was in a wheelchair was going to get up on the stage using a ramp etc.
“You’re going to be called first Jules. She said then you’re going to give everyone their hugs and come down, same with the other student. After you both are done, we will let all the others go. Sound good?”She asked.
I nodded in agreement.
June 12, 2017.
The final week before the big day for the graduating class of 2017.
And the final week for me to finalize everything before my walking milestone. The final step in the planning process was to speak with my gym teacher about how we were going to get me downstairs if we were all on the second floor and were separated by last names in rooms, it was going to be a tough walk.
Luckily, that week I only had one final and that’s it. So, I was able to spend more time planning.
“If you can’t make it downstairs without being tired because I want you to have enough strength and energy to be able to walk out to the stage,” explained my gym teacher. “We will let you get a head start and give you a ride on the cart. But if graduation gets postponed to the 18th of June due to weather (the original set date was the 17.) that rain day morning we will all meet in the gym and walk out from there.”
The cart didn’t work. So, now in a way, I was praying that it got postponed only because having the cart would kind ruin the plan.
It did get postponed. Which I was happy about.
June 17, 2018.
24 hours before the big day.
The day all of us graduating seniors pick up our caps and gowns as well as have our yearbooks signed. Emotions and excitement were running high for everyone. It was all starting to feel real.
June 18, 2017.
The big day was finally here.
The day 400 of us graduating seniors said goodbye to the place we called home for 4 years. We all met in the gym. I was feeling nervous, anxious, and excited all at the same time. We were led by row to line up in the hallway to get ready to walk out. My row went first and within 30 minutes or, so everyone was lined up and ready to go.
We started to walk; I was already getting overwhelmed and we didn’t even make it to the gate yet. When we walked the path, all I could hear was people clapping as the band music was playing from someone’s I pod and the faint screaming and hollering of the people in the bleachers. It was very emotional how many people supported me in reaching this goal of walking across the stage at graduation, and now the hard work was paying off.
With the guidance of my gym teacher, I made the long hike out to the football flown to my seat up in front, and he was so proud and so was I. The music stopped playing. The national anthem was sung, and all speeches were given.
Finally, it was the moment we have all waited for.
I got ready to walk and went up to the ramp.
My name was called:
All of the seniors were screaming and so were the people in the bleachers. I gave everyone on the stage their hugs and walked back to my chair. I felt so proud of myself. “I did it!” I whispered proudly. The other wheelchair student went after me. We both watched as the rest of the seniors went up.
Everyone was done the closing speeches were said and we all able to throw our caps up in the air as a final farewell. Everyone was crying and proud. I was proud of myself. And my para was crying. The whole day was emotional and happy, and it will be a day I will remember forever.
To anyone with disability reading this. I want you to know no matter what you can achieve your dreams. Don’t let anyone or anything hold you back. You can do anything you set your mind to, all you have to do is work hard and believe in yourself! That’s it!
You got this!!