Proud Dad Celebrates As Daughter With Down Syndrome Graduates College

Feb 22nd, 2021

What many parents want is for their children to finish their education. And no parent will not be proud when their children graduate from college. A huge academic achievement that not everyone can get through it.

Jay Handlin is a proud dad and had an extra reason to celebrate when his daughter Rachel graduated from college.

You see, Rachel has Down syndrome. And she is one of the very few people with the genetic anomaly to have completed a college degree. That’s why when the proud father took to Twitter in mid-May to share this amazing news of his daughters’ accomplishment, the family received congratulatory comments and support from hundreds of thousands of people online.

Children with Down syndrome in the U.S. are provided with a free and appropriate education. however, there is no guarantee of that when they reach high school age. Their condition is often accompanied by different levels of intellectual disability and many Down syndrome students don’t meet college entrance requirements.

Throughout her journey, Rachel and her family dealt with the “naysayers. ” Still, they did not let this stop them. There are colleges and universities that invite Down syndrome students to join in classes and other enrichment programs. However, earning a degree is not an easy feat.

but changes can be made in order to make the educational materials more accessible for them. But the rigorous degree requirements in college are the same for everyone, even for those with Down Syndrome.

Rachel Handlin became one of the very few people with Down syndrome to complete those requirements when she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography & Media from the California Institute of the Arts this year.

During his interview with PEOPLE, Mr. Handlin said that he believes “out of all the people with Down syndrome in the world, those who’ve earned a regular college degree are literally about one in a million.”

But even when she was young, her parents already saw potential in her. When she was in 9th grade, Rachel has gifted a Nikon Coolpix point-and-shoot digital camera for her birthday. And that’s when she really started to take an interest in photography.

She began taking classes throughout high school to build her portfolio. And that portfolio got her into CalArts where she became the first student with Down syndrome to enroll at the university.

Of course, she did not finish her college education without challenges and hurdles to get through. Unlike other college students who love the independence of living on their own, Rachel lived with her mother off-campus so she wouldn’t have to deal with the extra strain of learning to live independently while she was completing her studies. This is just one of the things that she has to live with.

But nobody can take credit for her accomplishment but Rachel herself.

And the response was one of overwhelming support. She received lots of encouragement online. She became the beacon of hope for those families with kids who have Down Syndrome.

Contrary to popular belief, more people with Down syndrome are capable of this achievement. It’s just sad that they just don’t have the opportunity or the resources to pursue it. It’s about time we start looking at those with disabilities in a whole new way.