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Middle school student uses boundless determination to walk 350 feet out of his wheelchair

Noah Rankin

Middle school student uses boundless determination to walk 350 feet out of his wheelchair

Noah Rankin’s recent accomplishment of walking 350 feet out of his wheelchair at school reflects the positive steps the Maize Middle School seventh-grader is known for taking despite life’s challenges.

Before birth, Noah was diagnosed with spina bifida, a condition that affects the spinal cord, and has been in a wheelchair since. Throughout his life, he’s had approximately six surgeries. But his determination, motivation, and strength have set him up for success to start walking. 

“When I got my braces, I was so, so happy. I was thinking to myself, ‘I want to walk, and eventually run,’” Noah said. 

His steps were filmed, and Noah shared the video with the assistant principals at Maize Middle School. In his email, Noah was overcome with excitement and satisfaction. He wrote, “In case you missed it, I started walking with my braces for the first time at school. Check out this clip of me and Coach Grover going for a stroll!”

Travis Grover, the physical education teacher at Maize Middle School, assisted Noah in his stroll across the gym floor. 

When asked about the video, Noah says he hopes people feel inspired, emotional, and motivated to tackle the goals they have set for themselves. 

“This is just the beginning for Noah,” Grover said. “He'll continue to make progress, and we'll 

celebrate every step along the way.” 

Grover has played an integral part in helping Noah believe in himself and his abilities.

“He has always helped me every step of the way,” Noah said of Grover. “It’s nice having someone who is there for you, believes in you, and helps you with anything. Coach Grover is that guy for me.”

When Noah took his celebratory-worthy steps at school, Grover wasn’t surprised by his accomplishments. 

“I’ve been watching students make substantial gains and exceed expectations for a long time. Noah has the want, so we just work on the ‘doing,’” Grover said. 

What sets Noah apart from others is his boundless optimism despite life’s challenges. 

“He’s always in a good mood, has a million-dollar smile, and his positive mindset is an incredible asset,” Grover said. “When students are given the right tools, resources, and encouragement, the sky’s the limit.”

Noah joined OneMa1ze in fall 2020 after moving from Nebraska. Noah’s family members attribute part of Noah’s motivation and knowledge that he’s capable of huge things to the community and inclusive nature of Maize schools. 

“There was an instant connection with the faculty and staff at Maize Middle School,” Noah’s stepmom Nicole Rankin said. “It’s played a big part in our experiences. It’s obvious he has an amazing support system beyond our home, in the faculty, staff, and his peers.” 

Those who know Noah describe him as having no strangers, being a true friend to everyone, and being loving, caring, and fiercely independent. When he believes he can do something, he no doubt will. 

“Noah is a great example of facing less-than-ideal situations,” his stepmom said. “He does so with a brave face and a smile. He’s goals are challenging ones, but I know he has what it takes to make it happen. We’ll be there cheering him on.” 

Two of Noah’s greatest passions are football and soccer, both of which he struggles to participate in with his classmates. In Fall 2020, he and his family ran into the seventh-grade football coach after practice. Noah volunteered to be the manager. 

“Rather than being a ‘manager,’ it felt like he was a member of the team,” Nicole Rankin said. “It was amazing to see the team of boys cheering Noah on. During the last game, they helped him ring the bell. It was great to see Noah a part of something bigger.”  

Noah enjoys playing Xbox, watching ESPN and the evening news, and being outside. At school, he likes to learn new things, spend time with friends, and go outside on the track. 

He recently received a new wheelchair, one that accelerates and makes it easier on his hands and pushing himself. 

“Not being able to do what I can’t do makes me sad,” Noah said. “I want to walk and run on my own and play sports, I want to get my energy out!”

When it comes to walking more often, Noah said, “This is an opportunity for me to do what I love.”


Video courtesy of Jenny Stephensen.