Years ago, doctors informed Florida teen Jericho Burroughs that his dreams were out of bounds. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Burroughs was told that he would never succeed in school, let alone cross a stage to accept a diploma.
Since then, Burroughs has been doing everything in his power to prove them wrong.
Burroughs, 18, uses a wheelchair to move. His cerebral palsy impacts his muscles and motor ability, making standing or walking nearly impossible. However, the disability hasn’t stopped Burroughs from becoming one of the most high-achieving and popular students at Edward H. White High School.
Known for his prowess in adaptive track and field and his remarkable vocal talent, Burroughs is well-liked among his classmates.
“I won prom king,” Burroughs told WJXT. “When they called my name, I am telling you, I was literally about to fall out of the chair.”
After years of hard work and dedication, the teen was ready to receive his diploma on May 30, 2019.
When Burroughs told his mother a surprise was waiting for her at his graduation ceremony, she suspected that he was going to perform a song onstage. What she actually saw her son do that day was even more memorable.
Burroughs didn’t just earn his diploma. He stood up from his wheelchair to cross the stage on foot.
“After months and months of preparation and working very hard on my graduation day, it just so happened I walked across that stage and I went to get what I deserved, and that was my high school diploma,” Burroughs said.
“It felt liberating. I felt powerful in that moment.”
Burroughs’ upbringing played a major role in empowering him to achieve his dream. He grew up close to his twin brother, Joel, who has epilepsy. The two were taught to understand that they are no different from anyone else.
“You can’t pull that disability card around here. They aren’t going to play that. You are going to clean up like everyone else. You are going to fix your food like everyone else,” Burroughs said.
Living with cerebral palsy isn’t easy. Burroughs has undergone 18 major surgeries. However, he has learned that his disability doesn’t define him.
“For me, it’s just challenges. It’s all you think about: life full of challenges,” Burroughs said. “For so long, I have had to roll in this wheelchair. Don’t get me wrong, I make it work.”
Jennifer Long, Burroughs’ mother, told WOFL that her son is “resilient.” She’s taught him to “never allow anyone or anything to stop or break him.”
Crossing the graduation stage won’t be the last accomplishment Burroughs will set out to achieve. He plans to attend Florida State College in the fall to start working toward a social work degree. His brother, Joel, wants to attend college as well.
“I did what most people in my condition won’t be able to do, and that is beat the odds,” Burroughs said.
“I am what it looks like to be unstoppable, unbreakable, unmovable. That’s me. Because when you roll, we all roll.”
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