Twenty-one-year-old Derek Harper’s story is truly one of overcoming adversity. The Maryland State Police (MSP) trooper, who has cerebral palsy, graduated from the state police academy on Friday, March 22, 2019. And to add extra fanfare to the occasion, Harper, from Washington County, was greeted on the stage by his proud father, 28-year MSP veteran Sergeant David Harper.
Harper’s grandfather was also a Maryland State Police trooper.
“I’ll be thinking ‘That’s my little boy, who I had to carry around because he couldn’t walk too far,’” Sgt. Harper shared in a statement to WJZ before the graduation ceremony. “Now, look how far he’s come.”
The road has been long, and rough, and it’s an achievement of colossal proportions for Harper to have made it where he is today. His success is due, in no small part, to his determination.
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Harper was diagnosed with the movement disorder cerebral palsy at 3 years of age, and endured years of invasive surgeries, rehabilitation, and therapy. Doctors at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore oversaw Harper’s progress. He even had shots in his legs and wore braces in his early years to help maintain his balance, before major surgery at the age of 9. Harper spent a month and a half in full leg casts, no mean feat for a young boy with boundless energy.
David and Sandy, Harper’s parents, were adamant that their son would not be held back by his condition. They nurtured their son’s curious spirit and determination to join his peers in the great outdoors. Harper played soccer, T-ball, and even ran cross-country in his braces.
Never short of peer support, Harper also joined the Cub Scouts and participated in the Civil Air Patrol.
The Maryland State Police offered their perspective to WJZ. “Sgt. Harper said he never once told Derek he wanted him to become a Maryland state trooper,” they revealed. “He said his son first indicated he might want to follow in his father and grandfather’s career choice when he was in middle school.”
Harper attended a boot camp run by military and police officers in Pennsylvania, centered on law enforcement, and his dream gained traction. After graduating high school in 2016, the tenacious, aspiring trooper took the MSP’s fitness test. He passed and was hired as a cadet, beginning his training at the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division New Market scale house.
Harper, despite having endured a staggering series of medical interventions, aced every physical test put before him. Having fully proved his capabilities, Harper joined the MSP Academy Class 148 in September of 2018.
“He has endured the rigors of a six-month residential police training academy,” the MSP shared. The residential training is widely recognized as one of the toughest in the United States. “He has endured the mental, physical and emotional challenges this intense training has presented him with,” they continued.
“He has overcome each one.”
But Harper’s tenacity didn’t end there: the 21-year-old also had academic goals in sight. Besides enrolling in the academy, Harper also joined a concurrent degree program with Frederick Community College. “[He] will complete his Associate of Arts degree in criminal justice soon after graduating from the Academy,” the MSP confirmed.
Harper’s graduation ceremony marked the culmination of two decades of hard work and determination. As Harper’s father pinned his son’s gold badge onto his lapel, marking the inauguration of his career as a third-generation trooper, emotions ran high.
Watch the moving video of Harper’s graduation ceremony below.
Congratulations Trooper Derek Harper! He became a third-generation Maryland state trooper on Friday, but his journey wasn't easy. Take a look:
由 WWLTV 发布于 2019年3月23日周六
Thumbnail Credit: Facebook | Maryland State Police
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