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Policy Prevents Student With Cystic Fibrosis From "Walking" At Commencement Early

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COLLIN COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) - A Plano teen has the strength to fight through four years of high school while battling a life-threatening illness. Now, there's one course standing between her and graduating with her class.

For teens with Cystic Fibrosis there's no guarantee you'll make it to high school graduation, but Victoria McKennon can dream.

"I've had this entire ceremony thought of in mind, at the big place and all my friends walking on stage, and then after you get off, you're like, 'whoa I'm done with high school. This is great.'"

You wouldn't know it from looking at the strong-willed 17-year-old, but Victoria has been very ill for most of her life. The Plano Senior High School senior spent a lot of time out of the classroom in hospitals, but she's managed to catch up on most of her schoolwork and expects to graduate after making up one class during the summer session.

Victoria's mother, Grace McKennon, dreams big while being realistic. "I don't know how long Victoria is going to live," she said softly. "Of course we always aim for the moon, the sky, and the stars, but in reality her life span is limited. So every experience is very important for her."

Focusing on that dream, Victoria and her family asked the school to let the teenager walk on stage at the commencement ceremony in June. The request wasn't to get her diploma early, just to allow her to be with her friends for all the pomp and circumstance.

The school declined the request citing district policy which states, in part --

"To be eligible to participate in commencement activities and ceremonies, a student shall meet all state and local graduation requirements..."

A smaller graduation ceremony is available after summer school, but Victoria and her family say it's not the same.

Grace McKennon believes the opportunity to walk in June would shine a special light on her daughter. "I think it would mean to me that she's persevered through all her trials, that nobody can really know this and see what she's been through other than our family."

For Victoria it's about so many of the things most people take for granted. "Because I've wanted to be a normal kid for so long now, and this is like almost like the definition of being a normal kid, like your senior year, you get to walk the stage. I've been looking forward to it for so long."

Victoria's family has filed a complaint with the education department's Office for Civil Rights. They hope the school district will reconsider the decision in time for the June 12 graduation ceremony.

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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