- Associated Press - Saturday, June 14, 2014

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - She couldn’t get to the bell, so they brought her to it.

In the traditional wicker chair, up five flights of stairs. Two St. John’s College students hoisted Micaela MacDougall to the top of McDowell Hall.

Seniors usually ring the bell at midnight after turning in their research papers, but MacDougall can’t stay up that late and is wheelchair-bound. A small group turned up at 9:30 p.m. Feb. 1 to help and celebrate.

“It just meant a lot to know they cared about me and helped me overcome an obstacle,” she said.

Just the latest one.

MacDougall graduated from the Annapolis college last month at age 19 - she skipped high school - despite suffering from spinal muscular atrophy, a type of muscular dystrophy. She can’t walk, has only partial use of her arms and tires easily.

She handles schoolwork herself, but needs help dressing, bathing and going to the bathroom. Parents Gregg and Lynn, both 49, help at home; students stepped in to assist in college.

Her disability “created this hardship, but it’s also created these opportunities to be the person she is,” said friend and former classmate Alexandra Fitzmorris of California.

One of these opportunities is attending graduate school at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

“I don’t know if I’d call myself an adventurer,” Micaela said. “But if I want something, I’m willing to take risks to get it.”

The only problem is the family needs to raise about $75,000 for tuition and living expenses to move abroad for a year. They don’t need the entire amount by the end of the summer - just around $30,000 to get the ball rolling.

The MacDougalls already uprooted once, from Pennsylvania, leaving jobs and family, so Micaela could go to St. John’s. She’s an only child.

In Annapolis, Lynn works two part-time jobs and is Micaela’s primary caregiver. Gregg, a Presbyterian pastor, runs a small church out of the family home and is a handyman.

Micaela hopes to enroll in a program leading to a master’s of theology, imagination and the arts.

The family has roots in Scotland and Micaela already knows one of the professors at St. Andrews. She has been to the United Kingdom twice before, including a two-week summer British literature program at the University of Cambridge she helped finance by writing a short theology book.

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