Commencement a walk to remember for one UMHB graduate

Taylor Scruggs, who lives with cerebral palsy, walked across the graduation stage without a walker. She is accompanied by her friend, Maggie Bates. (UMHB Photo)

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BELTON—Most students and their families view commencement as an important event. But for Taylor Scruggs, who lives with cerebral palsy, the walk across the graduation stage was a moment her family never will forget.

“Honestly, it was the best moment of my life,” Scruggs said.

Scruggs’s condition makes it difficult for her to move around without her walker. Leading into the spring graduation ceremony, however, she was determined to walk across the commencement stage unassisted.

Surprise to family

It was an ambitious goal—and a surprise to her family.

Scruggs decided to make the walk early this year. She reached out to commencement organizers with the idea.

“I ended up talking to Dr. Mynatt (UMHB’s vice provost for institutional effectiveness), who told me ‘Yes, I want to make this happen for you,” Scruggs said.

While some staff members expressed concerns for her safety, Scruggs recalled the overwhelming support she received leading up to the big moment.

“Everyone was on board with trying to make this moment special,” she said. “On the day of the ceremony, they let me come early, and I got to walk the stage twice for practice.”

“I was really worried that I would start crying on stage. I knew that my family did not know, and this was going to be huge for them.”

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Support from campus community

For Scruggs, the walk across the stage took on a surreal quality.

“I don’t even know what I was feeling in that moment other than: ‘Oh my gosh! This is happening. I’m doing it,” she said.

Her friend Maggie Bates accompanied her across the stage, offering words of support along the way. After crossing the platform, Scruggs found her family in the crowd.

“We got off the stage, and (Bates) looked up and saw my family and saw them crying, and she started crying,” Scruggs said.

Scruggs sees her graduation ceremony as yet another moment in which her campus community came together to support her.

“It definitely was a really great moment that was consistent with my time at UMHB,” she said. “Every challenge I’ve had, I would just talk to a professor, and we would find a way to make it work.”

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