Student with rare condition graduating from Wharton High School

Tyanna Tran has Prader-Willi Syndrome
Posted at 5:48 PM, May 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-15 17:48:47-04

We first introduced you to special needs student Tyanna Tran last fall when a young man asked her to be his homecoming date. Tran's now about to mark another major milestone: graduating high school.

With loud cheers, pomp and circumstance, seniors at Wharton High School in New Tampa enjoyed one final hurrah before graduation.

The 'clap out' is momentous for every graduating senior. But getting here has extra meaning for Tyanna Tran.

"Happy!" said Tran.

"You're done!" said her mom, Julie Dang.

"But I'm sad at the same time," said Tran, reflecting on how much she will miss her teachers and friends.

The special needs student has a rare condition called Prader-Willi Syndrome. Complications from it often mean a short life span.

"Being told that she won't live through middle school or live long enough to even attend...when she entered ninth grade at Wharton, I was scared," said Dang.

And in a school of over 2500 kids, Tyanna was quickly overwhelmed.

"She was getting depressed at the beginning of the school year freshman year because she felt like she didn't belong.  She kept her head down," Dang said.

But soon after, Tyanna found her calling, thanks to a gentle nudge from teacher and lacrosse coach Corrine Smeak.

"It just takes that one spark and if you show you support the kids, you show that you care and you're there, that's what every kid needs," said Smeak.

Being an aide to Wharton's lacrosse team motivated Tyanna to work hard in class.

She's now finishing school without going through special education, and is one of only a small handful of students with Prader-Willi Syndrome to ever do so. Her mom says the support of teachers and lacrosse teammates helped make this moment happen.

"I think Tyanna wanted to prove everybody wrong," Dang said.

And Tyanna is determined to keep beating the odds. She's planning to go to college and become a teacher's assistant..

"You want to be a TA to work with what kind of kids?" said Dang.

"Those with special needs," said Tran.

Her ultimate goal is inspiring other special kids the way so many at Wharton helped her succeed.