NOVI, Mich. – He was wheelchair-bound for years, suffering from what doctors thought was an autoimmune disease, but on Friday Emmanuel Franklin walked across the graduation stage.
After years of feeling restricted to a wheelchair, the 17-year-old enrolled in an online charter school, and the decision gave him the freedom to reach his potential.
"I'm feeling amazing," Franklin said. "I never thought I would be here today. I was in a wheelchair for a long time. The doctors were calling it chronic pain, but it was because of the steroids I was taking for my asthma."
For more than eight years, Franklin couldn't walk because of the disease. He started to struggle in middle school, and that's when he discovered the Michigan Virtual Charter Academy.
"The transition to the online school was much better," Franklin said.
Administrators said the online charter school is a unique option for students facing barriers.
"A lot of our students have been distressed by bullying, anxiety and mental health issues that make a public environment a lot for them to overcome," said Esther Freel, of the Michigan Virtual Charter Academy.
The program gives students a chance to realize their dreams from the comfort of home with the tools they need to thrive.
"The student pays no tuition and also, they're provided with a computer, printer and materials they need," Freel said.
"If there's anybody else going through difficulties in school, you can get through it," Emmanuel said.
Having crossed the stage to accept his diploma, Franklin wants to go to Lawrence Tech to pursue a career in engineering.
Since last year, Franklin transitioned from using a walker to a cane. On Friday, he crossed the stage on his own.