Ondelee Perteet achieves his goals one step at a time
June 3, 2013 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- For nearly four years, we've followed the story of Ondelee Perteet - a young man whose life was forever changed when a bullet fired by another teenager lodged in his spine.
In two weeks he will graduate from high school and next fall, he's planning on college.
We titled the first story we did on young Mr. Perteet over three years ago, "The Determination of Ondelee." His determination remains unquenched. Though he can reasonably expect to need a wheelchair for the rest of his life, he will not allow that to define what he expects of himself.
Six months after a bullet had rendered him a quadriplegic, Ondelee struggled to lift a cup of water to his lips with his left hand. His right side strength was gone. His mom had to brush his teeth for him. Eight months later, Ondelee was able - with assistance - to walk a short distance.
"I set goals and I'm making those goals, and you know I'm very proud of myself," Ondelee said.
Ondelee is a senior at Wendell Phillips High. He navigates the building in a motorized wheelchair. And he navigates his iPhone with a superfast left thumb, writing up his assignments. Ondelee will graduate June 15th. On time. Much of his determination comes from a not-so-secret weapon.
"Everytime I get upset, you know she comes and talks to me and says everything's gonna be OK, and that's all I need," said Ondelee.
ABC7's Paul Meincke asks: "You mean the drill sergeant?"
"Oh yeah, yeah," said Ondelee.
Mother is the drill sergeant.
"I'm proud that he takes my advice, and that he does not give up," says Deetreena Perteet, Ondelee's mother.
Paul Meincke says, "He'd better take your advice."
"Exactly," said Deetreena Perteet.
Deetreena believes her son will one day walk again. Unassisted. This is why she believes.
Mother holds his hand, and then releases.
"I'm right here. You're doin' it, you're doin' it," said Deetreena Perteet.
A 20 foot hallway walk that requires intense concentration. Step with the left. The right foot follows slowly. Three-and-a-half years ago, this might have seemed unimaginable. Ondelee does it with a bit of teenage showmanship, and a smile.
"As long as I got my family, as long as I got my mom. As long as I'm able to breathe again, as long as I'm able to breathe, it's worth a smile," said Ondelee Perteet.
"You got it, you got it, you got it. You got it," said Deetreena Perteet. "I think you just won the race. You are unbelievable."
There remains ahead, to be sure, a very long road, but 20 feet unassisted is a good start.
"As long as I've got God. I've got my goals I've set, with God I can reach those goals. There's nothing to be upset about. I'll always keep a smile," said Ondelee Perteet.
Ondelee was shot in September 2009 by a young man who was told to leave a party. Now, that young man is serving a 20-year prison sentence.
Ondelee chooses not to dwell on the past, but to build for the future, starting with college in the fall - quite probably Malcolm X to start.
His dream is to become a motivational speaker. He and his mom have already been called upon to speak to groups of young people about the importance of making good decisions, the consequences of making bad ones, and the power of determination.
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