(CNN NEWSOURCE) — A high school senior in Massachusetts who was paralyzed during a hockey game took a big step Friday.
Determined to walk again, he was able to receive his diploma standing on his own two feet.
As Jake Thibeault rolled his wheelchair across the lawn as part of the graduating class at Milton academy nobody was quite sure if Jake would be able to keep a promise he'd made to himself nine months ago.
During a youth hockey game, Jake collided with another player, hit the boards and dropped to the ice... leaving him with two broken bones in his back, paralyzed from the waist down and laser-focused on one goal.
"Which is to walk again," Thibeault said.
By February, Jake was crawling, pushing through hours of grueling physical therapy nearly every day.
"They were just like, 'oh, try by yourself.' and I made it two mats. And I was like, 'ok, holy cow.'"
A few weeks later - he was back on campus.
But as graduation day approached... his goal started to seem out of reach.
"We kind of realized that he wouldn't necessarily be able to walk under his own power, but he was still determined, in his words, to be vertical," Mike Thibeault said.
When his name was called, Jake started rolling his wheelchair across the stage.
Then stopped... and stood up.
With leg braces and a walker, but completely on his own - Jake Thibeault took 30 steps and crossed his finish line.
And with that - the graduates struck out into the world - led by a living example that nothing is impossible.
"Just an overwhelming feeling of being proud for jake, never more honored to be his father." Mike Thibeault said.
From here Jake is headed to Babson College to study in the Fall.
His father says he is as determined as ever to walk even better and go even further.