From left, Jennifer Bland, Juan Roque and BHS Principal Dan Stevens. On June 8 Roque walked across stage to receive his diploma. Photo by Mo Voyer
By Shelby Stewart
Juan Roque just wanted to walk across the stage for his diploma like a normal kid.
“First of all, I didn’t have practice, so I was really nervous to do that,” said Roque, 18, a 2018 Brandon graduate.
At birth Roque was diagnosed with spina bifida—a defect where there is incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord. Because of this, Roque has always needed the assistance of crutches to walk straight.
“Without those (crutches), I walk sideways, and with the crutches I can walk longer distances,” he said. “I can walk the whole school with them, I just have trouble walking without them.”
On June 8, Roque joined 238 Brandon High School classmates at Blackhawk stadium for commencement exercises. It was there he decided to leave the crutches behind and walk across the stage for his diploma.
“I thought I was going to fall or something,” he said. “But once I got up on stage, it felt really good.”
As Roque walked across the stage, classmates recognized his accomplishment with a standing ovation as he received his diploma from BHS principal Dan Stevens.
“When it was my turn, everyone was clapping for me, and that was something I was not expecting,” he said. “ I mean, I just wanted to walk across the stage like a normal kid would do.”
Following graduation Roque plans on going to Oakland Community College to study art.
“I really love to draw,” he said. “Graffiti art, I love doing that stuff, and I draw like roses and regular stuff.”
Though he’s not sure what he wants to do with it yet, he knows that he wants to go into art.
“I want to be a tattoo artist, but I don’t know,” he said.