Student Paralyzed From Neck Down Walks Across Graduation Stage With Help From a Robotic Exoskeleton

Khalil Watson walks across graduation stage with the help of robotic exoskeleton

Photo: Screenshot from Instagram

Thanks to a state-of-the-art device, a young man fulfilled his dream of walking across the graduation stage. Twenty-five-year-old Khalil Watson wore his cap and gown to receive his associate's degree from Reynolds Community College in Virginia. But unlike his peers, he did so with the help of a wearable robotic exoskeleton brought to life by Ekso Bionics and therapists at the Sheltering Arms Institute.

In 2016, when he was still in high school, Watson was shot in the neck. This caused a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down. “It’s been a journey; it’s been lots of ups and downs,” he told NBC12. “I had to learn how to eat, speak and breath on my own.”

Watson had to miss his high school graduation, which he streamed from his hospital bed. “Not being able to graduate physically was hard for me to deal with, but being able to still attend virtually is what made things a lot easier,” he recalled. Still, he hoped to one day walk at his college graduation.

As he worked on regaining his mobility and independence, Watson also devoted himself to education. In turn, he drew from his own story to visualize a future in which he could help others. “After going through the things that I have experienced, I’ve been focused,” the man said.

This inspired him to enroll at Reynolds Community College and build a career in social work. “I have a passion for helping others,” he reflected, “and after going through the things that I have experienced, I feel like I’ll be easy to connect with and understand individuals who have similar or worse situations.”

That very passion propelled him to work on his dream. With the help of his physical therapists and the robotic exoskeleton, Watson practiced for two weeks before the big day. As a testament to his dedication, he had mastered it by graduation day. In a profoundly moving moment at the ceremony, Watson slowly but surely walked to pick his diploma, as the crowd rose to their feet to cheer for him.

“Congratulations, Khalil! We are so proud of you and are honored to be a part of your journey,” Sheltering Arms Institute wrote in an Instagram post. As for Watson, that magical moment was proof that anything is possible. “I did this for God, myself, friends, my family. I mean if people only knew how I got to this point,” he said.

Now, the sky is the limit for the steadfast graduate. This fall, he will transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work. “In life, you’re going to experience ups and downs,” he said. “We just have to keep going.”

A man named Khalil Watson, who is paralyzed from the neck down, was able to walk across the graduation stage with the help of a robotic exoskeleton.

In a profoundly moving moment at the ceremony, Watson slowly but surely walked to pick up his diploma as the crowd rose to their feet to cheer for him.

Sheltering Arms Institute: Website | Facebook | Instagram
Ekso Bionics: Website | Facebook | Instagram
h/t: [NBC12]

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Regina Sienra

Regina Sienra is a Staff Writer at My Modern Met. Based in Mexico City, Mexico, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications with specialization in Journalism from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She has 10+ years’ experience in Digital Media, writing for outlets in both English and Spanish. Her love for the creative arts—especially music and film—drives her forward every day.
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