A paralyzed shooting victim was able to walk across the stage and retrieve her college diploma using a robotic exoskeleton – bringing the crowd to tears.
Khalil Watson, 25, of Henrico, Va., was paralyzed from the neck down after being shot just weeks before graduating from high school seven years ago.
Now he’s earned an associate’s degree in pre-social work at Reynolds Community College and been able to cross the stage to pick up his own diploma — thanks to a robotic exoskeleton that attached itself to his body.
There was a standing ovation across the hall when his name was called – as fellow graduates and spectators in the crowd cheered and applauded for his sensational achievement.
He stood up from his wheelchair, stabilized himself, then used the breakthrough technology to walk across the platform and receive his certificate.
Khalil Watson, 25, of Henrico, Virginia, got up from his wheelchair and was able to walk on stage using a robotic exoskeleton, seven years after being paralyzed by a shooting
Watson has now graduated with an associate’s degree in pre-social work from Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Va. – and he wants to continue his education for bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Watson posed for a photo, holding her diploma, as the beaming crowd wept and cheered at the Siegel Center in Richmond.
In the weeks leading up to graduation, Watson trained in cutting-edge technology to ensure the momentous occasion would be perfect.
Watson said: “It was great to know that my hard work has paid off and that I am being rewarded and recognized.”
The robotic exoskeleton was provided by Sheltering Arms Physical Therapy – and Watson underwent years of specialist therapy to help him overcome his disability.
Speaking about his achievement, Watson said WTVR: ‘Having to sit up from the hospital bed in high school, and now being able to experience it physically, means a lot to me.
“If it hadn’t been for God, my family, my friends and my therapist, I wouldn’t have been able to have this moment, and that’s great.
“When you’re sitting all the time, things can start to get uncomfortable. Being able to stand, on your feet, being able to get any type of leg movement, someone stretching your legs for you or walk, it’s amazing.
Revolutionary technology helped him cross the stage – what he couldn’t do for his high school diploma
There was a standing ovation for the man when his name was called – as fellow graduates and onlookers in the crowd cheered and cheered for his sensational achievement.
Watson’s bravery and perseverance left crowds in Virginia with tears in their eyes
The 25-year-old had to relearn how to speak and breathe after he was shot in the neck and back in May 2016, causing a devastating spinal cord injury – and over the years he has worked to recover some small movements.
At the time, he was forced to experience graduating from Highland Springs High School from his bed. He also couldn’t go to prom, which happened a week after the shooting.
He described learning to breathe, eat and talk as feeling like a baby again.
Despite all the hurdles, Watson has now earned an associate’s degree in pre-social work from Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia.
He plans to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work — a field he believes he excels in, based on his own experiences.
In the weeks leading up to graduation, Watson was training in state-of-the-art technology to ensure the momentous occasion would be perfect.
Watson, of Henrico, Virginia, was paralyzed from the neck down after being shot just weeks before graduating from high school seven years ago in May 2016.
The robotic exoskeleton was provided by Sheltering Arms Physical Therapy – and Watson underwent years of specialist therapy to help him overcome his disability
Watson added: “We all need help, some more than others. I feel like the best candidate for this job.
‘Living what I’ve been through has made it easy for me to connect with people and understand people who have situations similar to mine, or worse.
“I have always been determined and independent. I just try not to let anything stop me, no matter what my situation. I feel like things can always be worse than they are. This is how I can continue.
Christina Smith, physiotherapist at the Sheltering Arms Institute, said Heritage Journal: ‘When we started therapy after Khalil’s injury, he needed significant assistance with all mobility.
“Now he’s gradually increasing the amount of moves he can do on his own. Every time I see him he’s mastering a new skill.
Giving words of wisdom to other young people with disabilities, Watson said: ‘Anything is possible. Despite the circumstances, carry on.
“You never know, one day I might be out of this wheelchair.”