Wekiva High valedictorian’s life a victory over disability

Wekiva High valedictorian’s life a victory over disability

Orlando Sentinel | June 3, 2011 | By Joseph Freeman

The valedictorian at Wekiva High School near Apopka succeeded in 14 Advanced Placement courses, but she lacks the strength to operate a stapler. She earned a grade-point average of 5.1, but whenever she started a new class, she had to ask another student to help her take books out of her backpack.

Audrey Winkelsas’ life has been full of such difficult contrasts. Yet when she emerged from behind the stage in a wheelchair to raucous applause and a standing ovation during graduation ceremonies Friday, she finally had a moment to focus only on the victories. In her small, frail hands, she held a copy of her valedictory speech.

Winkelsas, 18, has spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, a disease in which the body’s muscles degenerate. Although her affliction is crippling and incurable, she is a dazzling student who has received a full scholarship at the University of Miami, where she plans to study the disease that has dominated her life.

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