In May of 2016, Khalil Watson was shot in the neck and that left him paralyzed from the chest down. As his classmates graduated from high school that year, he watched the ceremony from his hospital bed. He was released from the hospital a few months later and began a years-long rehabilitation to try and regain some mobility in his lower body.
He graduated high school and decided to move on to get an Associates degree.
A couple of years ago, as part of his rehabilitation therapy Watson got a chance to use an Ekso Bionics’ exoskeleton, an expensive bionic suit that makes it possible for some paralyzed people to stand and walk. As he prepared to accept his associates degree this month, he asked his physical therapist if he could use the device to walk across the stage at his graduation.
At the graduation ceremony at Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia, on Monday, seven years after missing his high school graduation, Watson rose from his wheelchair and crossed the stage to receive his degree. His college classmates had never seen him walk before. He got a standing ovation from the crowd and later described the moment as dreamlike, saying “It didn’t really hit me until a couple days later after doing some reflecting on what I had to go through to get to this point.