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Overcoming the odds: North Tonawanda teen's journey to a milestone graduation

For Mikayla Forsey, graduation means more than just walking across the stage.
Posted at 11:50 PM, Jun 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 00:09:43-04

NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Graduation season for high school seniors is in full swing across the country. With schools closed due to the pandemic, the “Pomp and Circumstance” is certainly looking different.

At North Tonawanda High School, a sprawling sign takes up several windows highlighting the Class of 2020. One graduating senior is Mikayla Forsey. She has called North Tonawanda High School home for the last eight years.

“My favorite part of being in high school is going to lunch,” Mikayla said.

Since March, the 21-year-old senior graduating with the Orleans/Niagara BOCES program has finished out her school year at home with mom, Michele.

The two took on every subject from science and math to gym class and even baking.

“I’d say good job mom,” Mikayla said.

Michele answered: “I’d say good job to you!”

High school graduation for this mother-daughter duo is more than just walking across the stage. It marks a milestone some thought may never happen.

“It means the world. It’s been a long road,” Michele said.

Mikayla was born blind. She started early intervention vision therapy at three-months-old. At 18-months, Mikayla began home vision therapy and physical therapy. By the time she was six, she underwent multiple surgeries.

“[It’s been] an emotional rollercoaster. We’ve definitely had our good days. A lot of downfalls as well. A lot of sad moments,” Michele said.

Mikayla beat the odds. She thrived in school. Her favorite subjects were math and reading. She also loved volunteering with Meals on Wheels.

“I just want people to know, no matter what your struggle is, no matter what situation you’re in — there’s hope at the end of the road,” Michele said.

Moved by her incredible perseverance, local blog Hope Rises shared her story. It did not take long for congratulations from around the world to pour in.

“It brought me to tears. I just wish I could thank every single person individually,” Michele said.

More than 75 video wishes make up the Hope Rises’ graduation gift for Mikayla. Many messages came from friends and family, while others came from complete strangers.

“Hi, Mikayla. My name is Melissa and I’m sitting here with my one-year-old son, Timothy. We live in Alberta, Canada,” one woman who sent her congratulations to Mikayla said.

“It takes a village to raise a child and now our village has traveled across the world,” Michele said.

Next week the Forsey family is planning on having their own backyard graduation.

“My mom’s going to write a speech and I’m going to sing the song and I’m going to get my diploma,” Mikayla said.

It’s sure to be a moment this mother-daughter duo will never forget.

“I am so, so proud of you. And you’ve just made it through the hardest of times, but you just, you’re just so special and you are such a gift from God. And I love you,” Michele said to her daughter.