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Jacksonville teen turns science project into unforgettable prom night

Molly Paris creates dancing wheelchair allowing her to make memories to music

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville high school junior wouldn't let a neurological disorder stop her from making memories to music at the prom. 

Molly Paris, 17, has used a wheelchair her entire life due to a condition called Rhett syndrome. 

"She communicated to me and I was trying to figure out what she was trying to tell me," Robin Allen-Paris, Molly's mother, told News4Jax. "She kept going on about a wheelchair and dancing."

Molly's science project, a dancing wheelchair, allowed her to enjoy the prom. 

"Definitely gives her that mobility," said Victor Toribio, director of the Jacksonville Science Festival. "When she's at the prom, she's actually the queen of the prom."

Two classmates and some partners, including the University of North Florida and the Microsoft store at the St. Johns Town Center, helped Molly make it happen.

Molly’s condition keeps her from communicating verbally, but she worked with two classmates and her instructor to turn a prototype into a full chair, into her winning entry at the science festival and into an unforgettable prom night. 

"The sense of being, you know, that I'm honored to be with Molly, Nigel and Kira and having those students come so far, because they didn't know anything about robotics," Toribio said. 

The dancing chair still has some improvements that Molly wants to make. With her winnings from the science festival, she wants to create chairs that are available beyond her school to bring independence to more people like her.

"I think she really wants people to understand that people with challenges like her can solve their own problems and they can live their best life," Molly's mother said. "They need people to help them but not pity them."

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.