Leesburg’s Gabriella Miller, 10, accomplished an impressive task Oct. 11 as she graduated from Shenandoah University.
The ceremony marked the third of three wishes made by the young girl – who was diagnosed about a year ago with a walnut-sized inoperable brain tumor – through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
While this may sound like the beginning of a tear-jerking story of pain and loss, Gabriella’s comments as she earned her bachelor's degree just may make you laugh. Among her activities was a biology class.
“Me and my pet frog, Bob, were playing a game called ‘dissect,’ and I clearly won. Bob won’t be asking for a rematch,” she said, according to a story on the school’s website. Pictures show the smiling girl wearing a white coat, goggles and protective gloves, like any other student in the lab.
“The one thing that we have always said to her is that cancer doesn’t make you different, and she’s absolutely embraced that,” said Ellyn Miller, Gabriella’s mother, in the story on the school’s website. “So I think she has challenges just like any other 10-year-old kid, and then throw into it going to the hospital for clinic.”
Previously, Gabriella became a national advocate for children with cancer, participating in speaking engagements and fundraisers.
She raised $275,000 for the Make-A-Wish foundation that helped make her wishes come true. She also launched the Smashing Walnuts Foundation, dedicated to finding a cure for childhood brain cancer. Named for the walnuts she and her family smashed to represent the tumor in her brain.
As for her wishes, Gabriella took a trip to Paris and became a published author after contributing to Cindy Chambers’ book “Beamer Learns About Cancer.” Graduating college completed the trio of wishes.
“At an institution where we say our mission is to educate and inspire, you certainly embody that,” said Shenandoah President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D., during the special commencement ceremony.
Gabriella attended classes all day, including homework assignments and quizzes, before receiving her honorary degree as well as the President’s Medal for Outstanding Service in Cancer Awareness.
“You all know that I have cancer and I’m going through some challenges,” she said during the graduation ceremony. “What gets me up every day, especially on the weekdays, because I’m not a morning person, is that I love to go to school and learn.”
[The information for this story was provided by Shenandoah University. The school’s full story can be seen here: http://www.su.edu/blog/honorary-degree-awarded-to-gabriella-miller-national-childhood-cancer-advocate/#sthash.YiCfhfRj.dpuf]