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Paralysis in 2001, graduation in 2012

11:20 PM, May 22, 2012   |    comments
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This past Saturday, a young man from Lawrenceville graduated law school -- more than a decade after he was paralyzed during high school.

On September 11th, 2001 -- the same day of the terrorist attacks that stunned and horrified America -- Keaston White went to school and then football practice at Collins Hill High School.

During drills that day, "[A fellow player] was coming around the corner, and I was coming around. I hit him, and everything just went black for a minute."

Keaston suffered a complete C-5 spinal cord injury and, after surgery, was told he would likely never walk again. He spent a great deal of time rehabbing at the Shepherd Center, trying to regain whatever movement he could.

"It's a feeling that you can't even describe," his mother Shirley says of hearing the news.

"I'd go to therapy and then I'd get back in bed, and I wouldn't leave my room for a while," Keaston recalls. "Eventually you have to accept that this is the way your life is. This is the way you work; this is the way you have to navigate through the world."

Once Keaston accepted that, he navigated his way to straight A's in high school. He was named to the homecoming court, prom king, and graduated in the top 10% of his class.

He graduated from Emory University and then took on a new challenge: Atlanta's John Marshall Law School.

Says Keaston of the challenge: "In law school, and to get out in the workplace, there's only so much give that you can get with your disability, and you don't want to lean on that."

Amidst everything, Keaston still allows himself to dream of a future that includes walking.

"If I don't care, if I'm not working towards that goal," he said, "it's all gonna break down. I work hard at maintain what I have, and the reason I work so hard is because I know it's gonna pay off in the end."

On Saturday, Keaston received his diploma and graduated from John Marshall Law School -- a triumphant moment more than a decade in the making since his injury. But for this young man, the work doesn't stop.

His next move after graduating: studying for the bar exam.

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