Recent Lakota East High School graduate Amelia Murphy has overcome a lot after being born with spina bifida, but thanks to her 12-year bond with a dedicated learning assistant Pat Burley (left) she wasn t alone in her battles.

Physically challenged high school grad credits adult aide of 12 years

Last week, the 17-year-old Murphy received her diploma in commencement ceremonies along with her fellow Lakota East High School senior classmates.

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Murphy, who must use a wheelchair for distances too far for her to walk, was joined at the event by her instructional and medical assistant who first partnered with her 12 years ago in the first grade at Wyandot Elementary School.

Murphy said of her relationship with Lakota staffer Pat Burley, “it is completely like having two moms.”

Burley has been by Murphy’s side almost every school day since they first met in a 2007.

Burley jokes about having earned a second, unofficial diploma after going through the first through 12th grades for the second time.

“It’s a very unique relationship and a lot of it had to do with me being familiar with her (Murphy’s) medical issues,” said Burley.

Their relationship goes far beyond tutor-student and though their formal ties will end when Murphy receives her Lakota East diploma, both said their bond will likely continue after developing a close friendship over the years.

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“It is emotional. She is always like a light in the room and so easygoing,” said Burley of her young friend.

Murphy is grateful.

“I don’t know if I could have done it without her. Especially when I’ve had medical issues at school … it has been tremendous to have Ms. Burley there with me,” she said.

Her mother, Pam Wendel, shares in that gratitude.

“All this couldn’t have happened without (Burley). At times they are like mother and daughter and at other times like best friends.

“To send a child with serious medical condition to school can be truly frightening,” Wendel said. “It was important to have a consistent, support person with her.

“Their relationship is amazing.”

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