Ohio high school student with spina bifida walks across stage for diploma

AKRON, OH (WJW) -- A Norton High School senior walked for the very first time at his graduation ceremony Tuesday night.

Bryce Swartz was born with severe spina bifida and paralyzed from the chest down. The always upbeat 20-year-old has been through a lot, including a dozen surgeries, but was still voted the Panthers Homecoming King and received the "Courageous Student Award" from OHSAA.

His father Rod says, he has come a long way.

RELATED: 5 unhealthy mistakes that make you age faster

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5 unhealthy mistakes that make you age faster
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5 unhealthy mistakes that make you age faster

1. You aren’t sleeping enough

You’ve heard it a thousand times before — not getting enough sleep is the worst thing in the world for your health, and it can even contribute to diseases later on. You may think you’re fine on the five hours of sleep you got last night, but sleeping too little can do serious damage to your skin, which can make you look way older than you are. According to skin care specialist Annmarie Gianni’s blog, studies have shown those who don’t get quality sleep each night had increased signs of skin aging, including fine lines, uneven pigmentation, and reduced elasticity. For those with acne, getting enough rest is particularly important to preserve a youthful look, as the skin heals when you’re asleep. Start getting at least seven to eight hours per night to ensure youthful skin.

Photo: Shutterstock / Andresr

2. You’re eating too much sugar

Sugary drinks and store-bought cookies aren’t just bad for your waistline, they’ll wreak havoc on your looks. Consuming too much processed, sugary food can make your skin look dull. According to research published in 2013, people with the highest blood sugar levels look older. The study involved more than 600 men and women who had no knowledge of their blood sugar levels. A board was asked to guess the age of participants without knowing anything about them, and those who had the highest blood sugar levels were thought to be older.

And consider you may even feel older from the way refined sugars can sap your energy. If you want something sweet, do yourself a favor and reach for the apple instead of the cookie jar.

Photo: Shutterstock / ARENA Creative

3. You’re always stressed

If you’re constantly thinking about the groceries you need to buy, the clothes you need to wash, and the deadlines at work you need to hit, then it’s time to take a deep breath and relax. Not only can chronic stress ruin your sleep patterns and increase your risk for heart disease, but it can also make you look 10 years older than you actually are. Stress chemicals are released into your body when you’re always anxious, which slowly results in a more aged appearance, says The Huffington Post.

If your job is what’s stressing you out, then you’ll want to practice some meditation and mini desk workouts to lighten your mood. The same story mentions a 2012 study published to the journal PLOS ONE shows your DNA may actually be affected by the exhaustion and frustrations you experience at work. Those who worked more stressful jobs were more affected, the story explains, which can actually increase the risks for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and cancer.

Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

4. You’re always crash dieting

If you’re always jumping from diet to diet in the hopes of getting your body to where you want it to be, then it’s best to stop while you’re ahead. Making healthy food choices and exercise are great for wellness, but jumping aboard a crash diet is almost always going to set you up for failure.

These diets can also age you dramatically. According to the Miami Herald, fad eating plans often rob us of essential fats, which our skin needs to help retain moisture. Cutting out food groups is a bad choice, too, because you may not get enough of the antioxidants that protect skin from the sun and other types of damage.

Photo: Shutterstock

5. You wash your hands and face too much

We all want to have perfect skin and clean hands, but all of that washing can do serious damage to your skin and quickly age you. When it comes to your face, use a gentle cleanser without added fragrance, and this goes for tall skin types. While those prone to acne are likely to reach for the products that have benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to keep their skin issues at bay, these ingredients strip the skin and cause severe dryness and irritation that can lead to wrinkles and a dull, aged look. And don’t forget to moisturize, either.

While you may be more concerned with your face than your hands, your hands show signs of aging, too. Daily Express explains washing your hands over and over again during the day dehydrates them, leading to wrinkly, aged skin. If you find your hands are dry and cracked from all of the washing, try massaging them with cream, then slipping on some gloves. The natural heat of your hands and the barrier from the gloves will allow the cream to penetrate deep into the skin, giving you ultra soft skin.

Photo: Getty

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When Bryce was born, doctors didn't think he'd survive past 18 months.

Tuesday night, he was determined to prove them wrong again by walking across the stage to get his diploma.

Both his father and mother, Beth, were nervous, but Bryce was excited and well prepared.

He'd been training and practicing for more than a year with his physical therapist assistant, Turranna Rice, at Akron Children's Hospital.

"Bryce is one of the sweetest kids you'll ever work with," said Rice, "Doesn't matter what you put him through."

SEE ALSO: Student volleyball player with one arm inspires teammates

Bryce had to be fitted with special braces that work with the body's momentum, and learn how to use quad canes, which requires a lot of upper-body strength, endurance and mental focus.

Before the ceremony, he worked with Rice one more time, and then easily walked across the stage where his father, who is a Norton teacher and coach, was waiting with his son's diploma.

While his classmates cheered wildly, Bryce flashed a big smile, hoping his efforts will inspire others to take the first step toward making their dreams come true.

"Where there's a will there's a way," said Bryce.

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