A USF student, who is bound to a wheelchair, plans to walk across the stage to get his graduate degrees this weekend.

  • Sam Bridgman to graduate with MBA this weekend at USF
  • Bridgman, who has Freidreich's Ataxia, is in wheelchair
  • He plans to walk across stage to receive master's degree

Sam Bridgman was diagnosed with Freidreich's Ataxia when he was 15. The terminal disease causes a progressive breakdown of the nervous system. The illness has forced Bridgman to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. 

Despite the illness, Bridgman has kept a positive attitude about life and education.

On Saturday, two friends will help the 25-year-old stand up and walk on stage. Bridgman will get his MBA and Masters in Sport and Entertainment Management.

"I'm always moving forward with the mentality that impossible is nothing and that's what walking across the stage will help me show myself that I can do the impossible," Bridgman said. 

  • Friedreich's ataxia is an autosomal recessive inherited disease that causes progressive damage to the nervous system. It manifests in initial symptoms of poor coordination such as gait disturbance; it can also lead to scoliosis, heart disease and diabetes, but does not affect cognitive function.

Bridgman has walked across the stage before.

Three years ago, he made national headlines when he ditched his wheelchair for his college graduation at the University of Portland. Two coaches helped him walk across the stage. Those same two friends will fly to Tampa to help Bridgman again.

"It was pretty awesome," Bridgman said. 

Bridgman admits this time will be tougher. His arms and legs are getting weaker every day.

But Bridgman said he's up for the challenge.

"I feel pretty confident," Bridgman said. 

After graduating from USF, Bridgman will work full time for the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

"I'm just happy I've been able to reach my dreams and be where I want to be," Bridgman said.