Two years after a debilitating hockey injury robbed him of the ability to walk on his own, a Boston-area teen inspired his classmates by graduating with a special golden diploma honoring him as one of his high school's most exceptional students.
As reported by CBS Boston and a variety of other sources, Norwood (Mass.) High senior Matt Brown, who is paralyzed from the chest down, used a motorized wheelchair to receive his graduation diploma alongside the rest of the school's Class of 2012.
While high school graduation is virtually a right of passage for many American teens, it was anything but guaranteed for Brown after a terrifying injury struck him in a varsity hockey game. The injury occurred during a game against Weymouth (Mass.) High during Brown's sophomore season, instantly leaving the teenager paralyzed from the chest down.
Since then, the teen has inspired and even shocked all those who have looked on, pushing his own struggles and strife to the side to achieve what he always anticipated he would, all while taking part in a number of traditional high school activities. Exactly a year after his injury, Brown attended the 2011 Norwood-Weymouth hockey game and made a statement by cheering on his former teammates with his hair dyed in Norwood colors.
He also earned regional attention by dropping the first puck for a Bruins-Islanders game during the 2011-12 season.
Still, none of the earlier highlights could compare with Brown's trip to collect his diploma on Sunday, when the teen smiled broadly from his motorized chair in a bright blue commencement robe, there to collect the diploma that was rightfully his.
"When I was hurt, I didn't think of graduating," Brown told CBS Boston. "I mean, I really didn't know what to think when I got hurt school-wise, but that's when I gotta fall back on such a great community that really pushed me through this."
Brown will be leaving that community come next fall, but he's doing so to continue living as normal a life as any of his fellow Norwood graduates. The departing senior plans to attend Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., where he will live in the school dorms.