LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A high school senior who likely taught his teachers and fellow students a few things about life received his diploma Monday.
Ten years ago when Willie Burton was just 8 years old he was making news as the first person in Kentuckiana to use a hartwalker device.
"It helps me be more able to believe that I could walk," he explained at the time.
Now, Willie Burton is 18 years old and officially a graduate of Fairdale High School.
"Sometimes I just sit back and I ask 'how did I wind up with such an amazing kid?'" His mother Brenda Burton said.
Brenda and Larry Burton adopted Willie when he was a newborn. His birth mother who was a drug addict didn't want to keep him.
Although he has cerebral palsy his parent's faith lifted and pushed him.
Brenda Burton joked about a childhood picture of Willie, who was on the floor in a wrestling position, was perhaps a sign of what was to come.
He wrestled on the high school team - all four years
"I crawl out to the middle of the mat and I just wrestle," he said.
"I think they think it's going to be an easy match and just roll me over. But once they get out there they realize ‘ain't going to be like that.' Don't realize how big of an upper body I got," he said.
Willie Burton said his daily workouts and matches were exhausting, but he didn't quit.
He decided to get a tattoo that says "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
"Basically means everything to me," he said of the phrase, "This is how I have to live my life pretty much every day."
He always pushed himself and pushed for others like him.
"Because I know if I quit I'm quitting on everybody else who has a disability who wants to play sports," he explained.
This year Willie Burton was given the MVP Award. He inspired not just those with disabilities, but others on his team.
"They see me at practice doing my own thing," he said.
"God's always got something bigger than you could imagine for your life," Brenda Burton said.
Willie Burton now has a girlfriend, Kaelyn Mahoney.
"We do get people to ask dumb questions about me and her," he said of their relationship.
He knows it's not the average high school relationship in many ways, but Mahoney said, "I look past the wheelchair and I don't really care about that."
In the fall he will attend the University of Louisville and hopes one day to open a gym for people with disabilities to help them look at their disability in a different way.
"It definitely has made me who I am today," he said.
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