Graduate Surprises Thousands with Extraordinary Accomplishment

Occasionally, you’ll have an exceptional athlete, musician, or performing artist come through your extracurricular program. But rarely do you have a student whose accomplishments are truly remarkable.

40 - Stanaland

Photo by John A. Gillis, Daily News Journal

Michael Stanaland played percussion in the Blackman High School band, and his twin sister played brass. His mom and dad served in various roles within the booster club. Like many families, the Stanalands have been active in their school and community.

What sets them apart, though, are the challenges they have overcome. You see, Michael was born with cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair. After joining the middle school band, Michael developed a passion for music and set a goal to play percussion in Blackman’s marching band.

Upon entering high school, Blackman’s band directors welcomed Michael and set out to find the best way to make his dream a reality. His mom, Renae, wanted him to have the full marching experience, not just to play on the sidelines.

So she learned the show drill and pushed his wheelchair in the halftime show. For four years, Renae scheduled vacation days and time off to attend band camp and afternoon practices to help Michael achieve his goal.

During Michael’s first year in the marching band, his story was covered in the local newspaper⁠1 and on television.⁠2 He was incredibly proud of the band, and was so happy to be the conduit that brought publicity to the program.

Last week, Michael demonstrated his greatest accomplishment yet before thousands of fellow graduates, faculty, and guests. With a walker to steady him, he walked across the stage to receive his high school diploma.⁠3 This was the culmination of a lifetime of determination and a year and a half of extensive physical therapy. And it came as a surprise – he had shared his plan with only a few.

40 - Michael-Stanaland-Blackman-graduation

Photo by Tom Beckwith, Daily News Journal

[Click here to view the video]

Michael was determined to walk across the stage so that he could be an inspiration to others. He wanted to encourage his friends, family, and others who have cerebral palsy to never give up.

Michael and his family serve as an inspiration for many. Through dedication and determination, they’ve found a way to overcome tremendous obstacles. His mom, Renae, and the rest of the family have made unprecedented sacrifices to support him in his journey, and to support the band program.

Seeing all that the Stanalands have accomplished, just think, what can you do to support your children and their extracurricular programs?

Question: What extraordinary accomplishments have your students achieved? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

1 Samantha E. Williams, “Blaze Band drummer doesn’t miss a beat,” Daily News Journal, September 3, 2011.

2 Joseph Pleasant, “Mother helps son realize dream of joining marching band,” WKRN-TV Nashville, September 16, 2011.

3 Brian Wilson, “Blackman grad gets ovation for final steps to diploma,” Daily News Journal, May 15, 2015.

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