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MSVU valedictorian makes graduation ceremony permanently accessible

Valedictorian Casey Perrin (right) seen with former Canadian Paralympic athlete and activist Rick Hansen (left).
Valedictorian Casey Perrin (right) seen with former Canadian Paralympic athlete and activist Rick Hansen (left). Mount Saint Vincent University

One of the three valedictorians at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax succeeded in her dream of creating a more accessible graduation ceremony last week.

Casey Perrin has been a vocal advocate for making her campus more accessible during her time at MSVU.

Perrin told Global News that she notified university officials after realizing that the location of her graduation ceremony wasn’t easily wheelchair accessible.

“(I said) I deserve to graduate just like everybody else,” said Perrin. “And I’m going to push you to let me graduate like everybody else.”

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As graduation season reaches its peak in Canada, many students are eager to cross the stage and receive their degree. But for Perrin, this year’s ceremony was a second chance to live a moment she lost in 2011.

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“My accident was on June 5, and I missed college graduation so it was a big deal,” said Perrin.

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Perrin, who comes from Oxford, N.S., was just about to graduate from Nova Scotia Community College with a certificate in office administration.

But she never got to cross the stage as an ATV accident resulted in paraplegia and a traumatic brain injury.

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During her time at MSVU, Perrin was determined to bring up issues that she felt made her campus less accessible.

It’s a determination that MSVU director of facilities management Bruce MacNeil said made her a great advocate.

“She always sort of stepped up and had a positive attitude,” said MacNeil. “It was not about her but about everyone.”

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Before Perrin voiced her concerns, a ramp had to be brought in to allow wheelchair access to the graduation stage.

After a major renovation of the stage, Perrin was able to finally make her way across the stage without having to use a ramp to receive her bachelor of arts degree.

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The event was made all the more special as Perrin was recognized by one of her idols.

Former Canadian Paralympic athlete and accessibility advocate Rick Hansen received an honorary degree from MSVU during the ceremony and gave Perrin a shout-out as he addressed the ceremony.

“You are an unbelievable example of progress,” said Hansen. “I’m thrilled and honored that you’re an ambassador of the present and the future.”

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Perrin said she was surprised by what Hansen had to say about her but that she’s grateful for the kind words.

“I didn’t even know he was going to do that,” said Perrin. “I didn’t even know he was going to mention me.”

With graduation done, Perrin is looking forward to working with Corridor Community Options for Adults, but she had a few words of encouragement for her graduating class.

“Fight for those dreams, or in my case, sit down for what’s right,” said Perrin. “Don’t let anyone stop you.”

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