Two hundred graduates from the University of North Texas at Dallas walked the stage at Loos Field House in Addison on Saturday, accepting diplomas in person after completing their degrees in Spring 2020.
Friends and family patiently waited for Corey Borner’s turn at the end of the line.
They erupted in cheers when he surprised them, walking out to accept his diploma rather than riding in the wheelchair he’s been confined to for the last 12 years.
"It feels good to be on your feet instead of sitting,” Borner said.
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It was a spring day in 2009 when Borner, a Desoto High School football player, went in for a tackle and never got up.
“As soon as I made a hit, I couldn’t move from the neck all the way down to my feet,” he said.
Doctors would later tell him it was a C5-C6 spinal cord injury, leaving Borner paralyzed and forcing him to come up with a plan B.
He relearned life from a wheelchair and became a motivational speaker. Still, Borner never gave up hope that he would one day walk again.
"We all go through something. That's one thing about life. But as long as you continue to stay focused and stay positive, anything is possible,” he said.
Two months ago, at the Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation, Borner took his first steps.
And at his graduation, with help from the hospital’s exoskeleton suit, he accepted his diploma on his own two feet.
"It's just a dream come true. I haven't seen him take a step in 12 years,” his mother Charlotte Borner said.
After she watched her son defy the odds, Borner said it doesn’t matter what comes next.
"Whether he was able to even do this or not, you know, I know he's going to do something that is positive. He's going to motivate people. He's here for a reason. God kept him here for a reason,” she said.