Student with cerebral palsy makes inspiring high school graduation speech: 'This is helping to break stereotypes'

A Minneapolis high schooler’s graduation speech is inspiring people across the country, as the 21-year-old with cerebral palsy used an augmentative communication device to share wisdom with his classmates.

On June 6th, Ahmed Ali addressed the graduating class of 2019 at Transition Plus, a program within the Minneapolis Public School district that helps people with disabilities transition from high school to adulthood. And although Ali didn’t actually do any talking, he impressed people with his knowledge and humor.

According to Transition Plus principal Jason Backes, to make it easier for people to understand him, Ali, whose nickname is “Smiles,” uses an augmentative communication device.

“He always has a smile on his face and a positive attitude,” Backes tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Two years prior, he helped out with the graduation video. So when it came to having student speakers this year, the graduation committee thought of Ahmed as a great example of what we embody here.”

According to Backes, Transition Plus students complete four years of traditional high school before moving onto the program that offers additional support to prepare for college, employment, or to hone independent living skills.

In a video of his speech, Ali had the crowd laughing and cheering as he gave his best advice to classmates for the next chapter in their lives.

“Your life is a relay race, the track is your life. Every time you achieve something, you pass the baton to the next person,” Ali said. “Guess who you are passing the baton to? It’s you.”

Ali didn’t immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.

Backes says that Ali and the school are excited about the speech, and opportunities that may come from the attention it’s garnered.

“This is helping to break stereotypes about a person with disabilities. And that’s one of the things that Ahmed is excited about,” Backes tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “People are seeing that those with disabilities, who are Muslim, or of color can be valued.”

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