VIDEO: Student rises from wheelchair, walks across stage at graduation

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A University of South Florida graduate stunned the audience at the school’s graduation ceremony on Saturday night when he rose from his wheelchair and walked across the stage to accept two master’s degrees.

Sam Bridgman, 25, graduated with a master’s degree and an MBA from the Muma College of Business Sport & Entertainment Management program.

Bridgman lives with Friedreich’s ataxia (FA), a little-known disorder that’s left him reliant on a motorized wheelchair since he was 18.

The disease is life-shortening and mostly affects the nervous system and the heart, causing a loss of coordination from the toes to the fingertips.

In the heartwarming video, Bridgman is seen walking to the stage with the help of two friends as the room erupts in applause.

After graduation, Bridgman plans to continue working tirelessly as an advocate for those suffering from ataxia by raising funds for the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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