Whitehall graduate in wheelchair walks across stage for diploma

Local News

WHITEHALL (WCMH) — Tavionna Spencer, a senior at Whitehall-Yearling High School, diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia, says it wasn’t enough for her to just to receive her diploma. She wanted to get out of her wheelchair and physically walk across the stage. 

“I got to keep going. I can’t give up,” said Tavionna Spencer. 

Those are the words Tavionna kept telling herself as she got out of her wheelchair and walked across the stage to receive her diploma. 

“That’s my baby. She went through a lot to come to this,” said Tavionna’s mother, Robin Evans. 

Robin says her daughter’s journey with Friedreich’s Ataxia started when she was 8-years-old. 

“She started having a hard time walking. I was like, “why are you walking so slow”. That is when we went to the doctor and sent her to a specialist, right off he knew what it was,” said Robin. 

It’s a rare disease that attacks the nervous system. It left Tavionna with diabetes, heart disease and poor coordination. 

“She has just been through a lot even with bullying,” said Robin. 

You would never know by looking at her big smile. School was rough for her. She was picked on, bullied and even called names. 

“No one ever took the time to hear me out, hear my story or really want to talk to me,” said Tavionna. 

But she decided to tell her own story, by proving those who doubted her wrong and walked at graduation. 

For 8-weeks she worked with a physical trainer from school. 

“We had this thing called wheelchair push-ups where I would have to hold on to my wheelchair and stand-up,” said Tavionna. 

Every day, she worked on this goal she set as freshman. Standing out her wheelchair, taking baby steps that turned into a full walk. 

“I was tired, but I was determined because my goal was to walk.”

The girl doctors said wasn’t suppose to live past the age of 16, is now 18 defying all odds one step at a time. 

NBC4’s Monica Day, who was the commencement speaker at the ceremony, said it was the absolute best part of the graduation. 

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