RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Virginia college student who was paralyzed after a shooting took a big step during his graduation.
Khalil Watson, 25, was able to receive his diploma from Reynolds Community College while standing on his own two feet.
His perseverance brought the room full of people to their feet as people cheered him on and gave him standing ovations.
“Being able to experience graduation in person, because I wasn’t able to in high school, definitely felt good,” he said. “I feel like I deserve it.”
Watson was shot in the neck in May 2016. He suffered a spinal cord injury which kept him in the ICU at the hospital for a month.
“Having to go through that tragedy at an early age led me to having to mature a lot faster than my peers,” he said. “I’m blessed to be here and a lot of people don’t get multiple chances at this thing called life.”
Watson was a student at Highland Springs High School at the time of the shooting. He missed prom and streamed his graduation online. But during his recovery, he became determined to attend college and walk across the stage to receive his diploma.
Watson went through several therapy sessions with Sheltering Arms Institute.
Seven years later, he walked across the stage at the Siegel Center by using a wearable robotic technology called Exoskeleton. He received his associate’s degree in pre-social work on Monday, May 15.
Watson was told that he may likely never walk again, but he believes anything can happen.
“With hard work and praying, I feel like one day I will be able to walk again,” he said “It feels great knowing that I impacted a lot of individuals across the world. What I did on Monday wasn’t just for myself, you know, it was for people who have disabilities and able-bodied people.”
Watson plans to attend Virginia Commonwealth University in the Fall to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work.