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Young Man Earns Degree Despite Health Obstacles, Physical Limitations

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Earning a college degree is a big accomplishment for anyone, but a graduate who was honored Friday night at Duquesne University had more obstacles than normal. And yet, he didn't allow any of them to get in his way.

"As long as you have the strength to do it, you can do anything," said Grant Stoner of Jefferson Hills. "It doesn't matter your limitations."

At 13-months-old, Grant was diagnosed with a rare disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type II. Eventually, he lost most motor skills. He uses a wheelchair to get around and can't feed himself or write.

"He always had that thirst for learning because he couldn't participate in the normal activities of children," said his mother, Claudia Stoner.

And that meant he was determined to go to college, but he's not able to take notes.

They couldn't find an aide to help, so his mom stepped in. She wound up taking notes for him in every single class for five years.

"I thought it would be one semester, a year at the most," said Claudia. "And then we just kept going and going and five years later here we are."

Grant said: "I couldn't have done it without her, and she knows I'm thankful for that every day."

Of all the graduates, Grant was chosen to receive the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts General Excellence Award.

His asthma kept him from giving his prepared speech, but a professor read it for him as his mom and the rest of his family watched.

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At the very end, he thanked his mother: "For five years you have sacrificed everything to make sure I could succeed."

The professor continued, reading Grant's words: "Thank you for being my nurse, my scribe and my mother."

The crowd gave Grant a standing ovation.

His degree is in journalism. However, he doesn't want to be a reporter. He plans on going to graduate school to study public history.

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