James River H.S. grad defies odds, surprises family and classmates by walking across stage

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A young woman who’s been unable to walk for years surprised her class Wednesday night by taking a confident stride into the future.

Pomp and circumstance rang through the Siegel Center on Wednesday — it was time for James River High School’s Class of 2017 to take the ‘walk.’ That’s perhaps not the best way to describe it, however, for Michaela Morris, whose immune system went haywire as a sophomore, forcing her into a wheelchair.

“It’s just something you want to do — walk across the stage,” Morris said.

She waited through speeches and hundreds of classmates ahead of the ‘M’ in Morris. Both sets of grandparents were waiting, too.

“I think they’ll be proud, I don’t know,” Morris said, forecasting the graduation surprise she had for them.

After donning an indigo exoskeleton backstage, Morris reappears and walks across the champ. The Siegel Center immediately filled with wild cheering and clapping.

“This was her plan when she came to us,” said one of Morris’ teachers, Callie Stehle.

Stehle taught Michaela to use the exoskeleton at Sheltering Arms Physical Rehab Center.

“It looks easier than it is,” Stehle added.

Michael’s mom never lost faith in her daughter’s ability to make the walk.

“So it did not surprise me,” Laura Morris said. “She is not one to give up hope and stop when somebody tells her “no”, that’s not possible.”

Michaela added, “It’s been a long journey, but it’s good.”

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