PLEASANT HILL, Calif. - It may have been a short walk across the stage at College Park High School in Pleasant Hill Friday, but for Ryan Joseph this was a major step.
He graduated with his class of 2020 despite a devastating injury that left him paralyzed, but not broken.
"It feels great. Really special with everyone out here with me," he said.
Two years ago Ryan suffered a spinal cord injury during a school wrestling meet. He was left paralyzed from the neck down and initially needed a ventilator to breath.
"Being able to stand and walk across that stage. That took one and a half years of really hard work," said his father Tom Joseph.
"I don't think anyone really has the perfect high school experience. Mine was this. It certainly could have been worse," said Ryan.
Ryan spent two years at a hospital in Colorado that specializes in spinal cord injuries.
He returned home last December where he continues to rehab. He returned to school in January.
"Physically I feel pretty good. I'm working out. Obviously I'm in a wheelchair. It's not perfect," he said.
"To get past that where he could breathe and regulate his body temperature a little better. Where he could eat. All those things given now seem really big even two years later," said his father.
Just two months after being back in class the pandemic forced schools to close, preventing Ryan from being with his friends.
Ryan plans on taking online classes at Diablo Valley College in the fall. He has these words for anyone who may be struggling.
"You can't quit. You only have the one life. You may as well finish what you start," said Ryan.