Khalil Watson, 25, was paralyzed in 2016 after being shot in the neck. Because of his spinal cord injury, he unfortunately wasn’t able to attend his high school graduation.
However, in a recent and incredible feat, he was able to walk the stage at the Siegel Center at Reynolds Community College and receive his diploma. Thanks to the help of a robotic exoskeleton that was lent to him by the Sheltering Arms Institute, Watson was able to walk across the stage along with the rest of his peers. The crowd erupted in a standing ovation as he stood up from his wheelchair, crossed the stage, and posed for pictures.
While the shooting and his injury took a toll on Watson’s mental and physical health, he committed himself to intensive therapy and was able to enroll in college and earn a degree in pre-social work.
Early on in his recovery, Watson had to relearn basic actions, like how to breath, eat, and speak. Once he was able to enroll in college, he had to face challenges like getting to and around campus. Without reliable transportation of his own, Watson took the public bus as transportation to school. Unfortunately, if he missed the bus, he would have to navigate his way to campus on roads without sidewalks.
In an interview with NBC 12, Watson said,
Watson first got to try out the exoskeleton a few years ago during physical therapy. The robot works by detecting the user’s slightest movements and providing a stable and responsive support.
Over the past few weeks, Watson practiced with the technology in anticipation of his upcoming graduation. Moving forward, his plan is to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work at the Virginia Commonwealth University and eventually pursue his master’s degree.