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Friendly 'celebrity' loves to be surrounded by friends

PLEASANT GROVE -- Kurtis Walker is somewhat of a celebrity at Pleasant Grove High School.

It doesn't take long to spot him.He's the friendly guy in a motorized wheelchair that can cruise along a sidewalk at 15 mph. And a bunch of friends usually surround the 18-year-old Metallica fan.

"I can't stand to be alone," he said. "My mom says that you should be your own best friend, but I always have to have 20 people with me."

Walker insists he doesn't kick into high gear in the spit-shined hallways, though. "It seems like it goes faster than that," he says. "But I wouldn't want to run anyone over."

Despite being born without legs and with a hearing impairment, Walker lives his life like most other high school seniors. He's a "Star Wars" fan, plays the bass guitar and is planning to attend business classes at Utah Valley State College.

What does he want to be? "An owner of a nightclub or a concert promoter," says the self-described lover of heavy metal and punk music.

Most days, Walker drives a van equipped with hand controls for the gas and brake pedals to school. Once a week, though, his mom makes him ride to school on the bus to make sure he knows how to use mass transit if his vehicle breaks down.

When at home, Walker, whose arms and shoulders are firm and muscular, gets around by "walking" on his large, strong hands. He opts for the blue-painted chair at school and in church.

"When you are in a big crowd you don't want to get stepped on," he said.

Walker said he'll miss the Utah County school, where he crossed the stage last week to receive his diploma.

Fellow students have been good to him, giving him a shout out when they see him heading to classes. "Everyone knows me. Sometimes people will say, 'Hi, Kurtis,' and I'll be like, 'Who's that?' "

"All the girls talk to me. I've got a million phone numbers in here," he said, pointing to his blue yearbook. "Everyone is so nice to me. I feel special."