A Southern California student with a rare skin condition achieved a major milestone on Thursday: she received her high school diploma.
Riley McCoy was in many ways just like every other student on graduation day at Dana Hills High School in Dana Point.
“I’m a little bit bittersweet because I love my friends, and I wish I could be with them all the time, but they’re going to different colleges,” she said.
But there was one big difference. As the other students went outside for their graduation, the 18-year-old stayed inside to put on special gear that protects her from the sun.
McCoy was born with xeroderma pigmentosum, which prevents her from exposing herself to sunlight. If a small amount of sunshine hits her body, she could suffer severe sunburns and even skin cancer. The condition affects only about one in 1 million people nationwide, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders.
Her story has inspired many people, including Robin Harris — a one-on-one aide assigned to McCoy by the Capistrano Unified School District.
“This is a huge thing. Even if you have some kind of a disability, you can overcome it and still do what all the other kids do,” Harris said. “Don’t let that ever stop you. Just keep pushing forward and go for it.”
The admiration from McCoy's classmates was on display during the graduation ceremony. The announcer didn’t get a chance to call her name before the crowd started cheering as she went outside.
“I like how I taught them how to believe, to never give up, always try new things, always be kind and just believe in yourself,” she told KTLA.
This wasn't the first time that McCoy was the talk of the campus. In September 2017, she was crowned the school’s homecoming queen.
She now plans to attend Saddleback College and major in theater.