Doctors told Nick Balenger he may never walk again, but on Wednesday, he proved them wrong.
Balenger chose his graduation day from Lake Braddock High School to show off his physical achievements.
In July 2012, the Burke, Va., teen was paralyzed in a swimming accident while on a family vacation in Hawaii. The past 11 months have been filled with intense rehab.
"I was given very minimal chances to move my legs, let alone walk," Balenger said.
However, Balenger is a determined person. Leading up to Wednesday's ceremony at the George Mason University Patriot Center, he practiced getting out of his wheelchair and using a walker to get across the stage.
"[I] came here on Saturday, did a couple of practice runs ... figured out how easy it was," Balenger said.
With practice behind him, Balenger sat focused and slightly nervous waiting for his name to be called. Using his walker, he made his way up to the stage with the other students. Then his name was called.
Balenger accepted his diploma and made his way across the stage. A roaring standing ovation followed. Once at the stairs, Balenger switched to a cane and carefully took the few steps to get back to the ground floor.
"It's just a long time coming," Balenger said. "I set my goal from the beginning, said I wanted to do this ... Finally it's all over."
"It was pretty amazing. Pretty surreal," Nick's father, Steve, said.
His mother, Sylvie, said she's confident her son will find just as much community support at James Madison University, where he'll start school in the fall. Balenger hopes to study finance.