‘It’s a blessing:’ Teen paralyzed at age 4 graduates middle school as valedictorian

A rising high school freshman has a lot to celebrate after graduating as valedictorian from his eighth grade class. Nine years ago, a gunshot left him paralyzed.

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In 2008, Mantrell Stevens was struck by a stray bullet fired by a gang in a Chicago neighborhood. On Tuesday, Stevens graduated at the top of his class at Wadsworth STEM Elementary School.

"It's a blessing, it's not a curse," the now 13-year-old told WBBM-TV. "Now I'm finally realizing it happened for a reason."

“That kind of humbled me, because when it happened, I was just a kid, but now I look on it now and I’m glad it happened,” Mantrell said.

The bullet struck his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Now, he’s getting ready to attend a private boarding school in Boston, where he received a full scholarship.

“He’s a bright kid. Keeps a smile on his face. Always positive. He’s my motivation,”

Martrell’s mother, Lakeesha Rucker, said.

“You could always do what you put your mind to. If someone tells you you can’t do that, do it anyway, because you will never know if you don’t try,” Mantrell said.

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