High School graduation is typically thought of as the first step in a long journey. For one student, that step was literal.
Angeline LeVasseur walked publicly for the first time as she crossed the stage to get her high school diploma on Sunday, the Livingston Daily reports. The graduate of Pinckney Community High School outside of Ann Arbor was born with spina bifida, a disabling birth defect affecting the vertebrae.
But there were other steps that LeVasseur completed to get to that point. First, the graduate of Pinckney Community High School outside of Ann Arbor, Mich. made a resolute decision, according WXYZ.
"I'm walking when I get my diploma."
Then, others put their faith in her. Pinckney Principal Jim Darga told the Livingston Daily about what she's been through to achieve her goal to walk at graduation:
"This is something we've been talking about doing for a couple of years. She's been working with a physical therapist and working with braces. She's a really upbeat girl. I think she can pull it off. There's going to be a lot of emotion in the room."
When her big day came, she simply left her wheelchair behind the stage and took her first steps. LeVasseur had a brace underneath her gown and relied on crutches for each step. As she passed her fellow classmates on stage, they rose one-by-one to give her a standing ovation.
LeVasseur is no stranger to accomplishment. She's participated in sled hockey, wheelchair racing, track and swimming and earned her first varsity letter. She was also inducted into the Annual Athletes with Disabilities Hall of Fame.
LeVasseur, who will go on to community college to study physical therapy, tells WXYZ what her first steps mean to her:
"Just because I'm in a chair, I still fit in. I still do everything everybody else does. If I can get through it with the challenge that I've got, there's no reason that anyone else can can't do it."
Help the Spina Bifida Association spread the word on reducing risk and support those who live with the disease through the links below.