Quadriplegic Student Stuns College Class by Walking Across the Stage at Graduation
A Florida International University student, who suffered a debilitating spinal injury three years ago, defied the odds and achieved his dream of walking across the stage at graduation to accept his diploma.
Aldo Amenta has been confined to a wheelchair since 2015 when he dove into the shallow end of a pool and broke his neck, according to ABC News. After the accident, doctors told the Venezuelan international student that he was a quadriplegic and would never walk again.
But Amenta was determined to not use his wheelchair for his Dec. 9. So with the help of his physical therapist, Guy Romaine, and a robotic device called an exoskeleton to walk across the stage and receive his diploma.
“It was an amazing experience,” Amenta told the WPLG. “For me, it was a milestone to accomplish. Being able to cross the stage walking is something that’s really meaningful.”
“We’ve been talking about this for over year,” Romaine added. “This is a big step for him.”
Walking at graduation — and even attending the ceremony — weren’t always a guarantee for Amenta, who considered dropping out of FIU after the accident because of how his life had “changed completely.”
“Now, I depend on a lot of people to help me do my daily activities,” he told ABC News. “So, that’s become a huge challenge in just my everyday life.”
With the help of his friends, family, and a university scholarship called FIU’s Ignite Campaign, Amenta was able to finish his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and continue receiving therapy, WPLG said.
In order to successfully stand for just a few moments, Amenta — who has since regained some movement in his arms and legs — practiced walking in the exoskeleton for hours with his physical therapist, according to WPLG.
On Sunday, Romaine was right behind him as Amenta slowly walked across the stage, shook hands with FIU’s administrators, and received thunderous applause from the crowd.
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Now, with walking at graduation behind him, Amenta plans on receiving his master’s degree and working towards being able to walk on his own again.
“It doesn’t matter how hard you think things are going to be,” he told ABC News. “Maybe you feel that it is impossible for you to make it, but you’ll find people that are willing to help you…that motivated me. That gave me the strength to be able to continue to push myself through and stay positive.”
Amazingly, Amenta is not the only FIU student to successfully walk across the stage after a devastating accident.
Last year, marketing and international business student Shane Mosko, who became paralyzed from his waist down after car accident in 2012, also used an exoskeleton to walk at graduation, the Miami Herald reported.