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By age 5, Lexi Dietz had learned to write & eat with her feet. Now, she's preparing for college

KARE 11's Boyd Huppert checks back in with the Montevideo teen unable to use her hands since birth.

MONTEVIDEO, Minn. — Lexi Dietz was 6 months old when her mother first noticed her using her feet to try to pick something up.

17 years later, Lexi sits in a classroom at Montevideo High School taking notes with a yellow pencil tucked between her toes.

“Don't let anybody tell you, you can't do anything, because you can,” Lexi says.

In 2009, KARE 11 first shared the story of the determined 5-year-old who had learned to brush her teeth, write her name, and make and eat a sandwich using only her feet.

Credit: Jonathan Malat, KARE
At 5 years old, Lexi Dietz had learned to make and eat a sandwich with her toes.

Now, Lexi toe-types on a laptop, as a high school senior, with plans to attend college in the fall at Southwest Minnesota State University.

“She just is ready for the world,” Jamie Olson, Lexi’s mother, says.

Lexi was born with arthrogryposis, a rare birth defect that left her arms and hands stiff and non-functioning. 

For a time, doctors thought her legs wouldn’t work much better.

“But I showed them,” Lexi said as a 5-year-old, having recently disproved her doctors and learned to walk on her own.

In a 2011 follow up story, Lexi had added climbing stairs to her list of unexpected accomplishments.   

Inspired by her 4th-grade teacher, Robyn Rademacher, Lexi decided she one day would like to be a teacher too.

Credit: Devin Krinke, KARE
Lexi Dietz will graduate from high school in the spring with plans to pursue a degree in education.

“He was one of the teachers that didn't treat me any differently,” Lexi says. “He would give all the students nicknames and stuff like that. Mine was fancy feet.”

Lexi’s love for reading convinced her to work toward becoming an English teacher.

“I think she’s going to be such an amazing teacher,” her mother says. “Her attitude will rub off on the students.”

Ann Wachtler, Lexi’s advanced placement English teacher at Montevideo High School, is also no stranger to Lexi’s positivity. 

“Lexi is the most positive person I have ever met in my entire life,” she says.

Credit: Devin Krinke, KARE
Lexi Dietz shares a moment with Montevideo High School teacher Dee Lund

Lexi can still walk and climb stairs, but at school uses a pink motorized wheelchair to dart between classes. The chair lifts to desk level, allowing Lexi to position her feet for note taking and typing. 

Around the high school, Lexi is known as much for her friendliness and smile as she is for lunching in the cafeteria with a fork gripped by her toes.

“She doesn't feel sorry for herself,” Debbie Christians, Lexi’s school case manager, says. “She doesn't view herself as different. She advocates for herself. She will not give up.”

In 2009, Lexi’s mother told KARE 11 she wouldn’t change a thing about her daughter. 

She is just as proud today.

Credit: Devin Krinke, KARE
Lexi Dietz grips a fork with her toes in the cafeteria at Montevideo High School.

“She could easily just be someone who goes and lives in a home and has someone care for her,” Olson says. “But she doesn’t want to do that and I’m most proud that she wants to be a success and to do something with her life.”

Lexi credits her parents, therapists, and teachers for giving her the support that’s brought her to the end of her high school years and positioned her for college.

“I feel like most people with disabilities want to live and be happy just like everyone else does,” Lexi says.

Credit: Devin Krinke, KARE
Lexi Dietz puts both feet to work at Montevideo High School.

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