ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - East Ascension High School's senior class crosses the stage Thursday night to get their diplomas, and one young man, Michael Allen, has quite a story to tell.
He is not exactly like the rest of the students, but that's what make this so special. Allen sounds like your typical high school senior this time of year. The East Ascension High student is eager to graduate.
"They've had me since 2013 all the way to 2017," said Allen.
Allen's class schedule did not look like most of his classmates'. Allen has special needs. He was born 13 weeks early, weighing a mere 2 lbs., 4 oz. His mother, Lisa Carter, says he was born with a condition called hydrocephalus, in which fluid builds on the brain.
"I was told they weren't sure if he was going to make it, but I always believed that he would. He's always been a fighter," said Carter.
Allen has been fighting ever since and did not take his high school experience sitting down. He bowled and ran track for the Special Olympics, sang in his church choir, and volunteered. His smooth moves on the dance floor earned him the nickname Moon Walker Mike.
"The school is wonderful and I love it. I'm really going to miss it," said Allen.
Allen has also been recognized for his academic achievements. At a recent awards ceremony, he received a $500 scholarship and a standing ovation from his classmates.
"They've created such a wonderful culture for the special needs students like Michael," said Carter.
The school has been assisting Allen with post-graduation plans. Carter says for her son, that means college.
"He's been saying since he was 6-years-old that he was going to college. I had no idea how or why he wanted to do it, but he said, 'I want to go to college,'" said Carter.
That answer came earlier this year when Carter discovered the Bridge to Independence program at Nicholls State University. It's a two-year program designed to help students with intellectual disabilities gain the skills necessary to have successful careers.
"I really believed this was it when we toured the campus and Michael said, 'I think I'm going to like it here,'" said Carter.
"It feels so good to be going to Nicholls and for the first time, I'll be leaving my mom and step daddy too," said Allen.
Allen says while he's excited to begin this new chapter, his friends at East Ascension will always be a part of his story.
"I will miss you all. I love you. I'll never forget ya'll," said Allen.
For more information about the program at Nicholls, click here.