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Looking Back: Graduating High School with CP

by Crystal McClure

Beautiful dresses and tuxedos have been donned by teens all across the nation for the Spring 2014 Prom season. Caps have been tossed into the air as a way of celebrating the biggest milestone of a teen’s life: graduating. Congratulations Class of 2014!

Twelve years ago, I was one of those teens. As mentioned in a previous blog for Cerebral Palsy Family Network, I was the first in my family on my father’s side to graduate from high school. I am also the only person in my family with a physical disability. Getting to this point in my life was not without struggles, but I fought strong all the way.

Prom was a unique situation all its own. I was not able to attend my Junior prom because it was held in a location that is not accessible for someone who uses a wheelchair. As you can imagine I was very upset by this as were my parents and some of the faculty at school. They all made sure the Senior prom was held in a location that was accessible for me. For that I will always be grateful. However, finding a date to the prom proved to be a challenge. I asked a few people whom I had interest in and they essentially said no. As time for the prom grew near I still didn’t have a date. Then a good friend of mine asked someone she knew if he would take me to prom. He said yes. I spent the day getting ready and of course we took several pictures with our families before heading out for the evening.

We had dinner where the prom was being held and then proceeded to go dance and socialize with some of my friends. When it was time for pictures to be taken I remember the photographer being a bit hesitant as I didn’t want my wheelchair in the pictures. Chris (my prom date) came to the rescue! He suggested that we do a floor pose. The pictures turned out perfect! Afterwards, we decided to leave because it was very crowded and loud. We ended the evening with a horse drawn carriage ride around downtown Chattanooga before heading home. It was a wonderful night!

Graduation was a very exciting time for me. I made it and could go on to college! The ceremony was held in an accessible location. There was a lift used to get those of us in wheelchairs up on the stage to roll across and receive our diplomas. Instead of going back down to our seats, we stayed on the stage. If I could go back I would have opted to go back down to my seat, since it was uncomfortable for those of us in wheelchairs. I also would have tried to get accessibility for Junior prom so I could have attended just like everyone else. As they say though, hindsight is 20/20.

Overall, it was an exciting and rewarding time. For those of you who just graduated, the best thing I can say is to enjoy this time and to be proud of the milestones you accomplish. The best is yet to come!

 

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