Every parent is happy when their kid graduates from college; it is a significant academic achievement that not all can or does complete.
However Jay Handlin had another cause to rejoice. Rachel, his daughter, has Down syndrome and is one of the few persons with the genetic disorder who has obtained a college degree.
When her happy dad turned to Twitter in mid-May to brag about her feat, the family got congratulations from countless people.
This is my daughter, Rachel Handlin. Tonight, she earned her full Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography & Media from the prestigious California Institute of the Arts, @CalArts. Rachel has #Downsyndrome.— Jay Handlin (@jayhandlin) May 16, 2020
I am officially the proudest father on the planet.
Fight me. pic.twitter.com/t39gY58Gqf
Although kids with Down Syndrome in the United States are entitled to free and adequate education, there is no certainty that this will continue after high school. Many Down syndrome individuals do not fulfil college entry criteria since the disorder is frequently accompanied by varied levels of intellectual impairment.
Rachel and her family had to cope with “doubters” all along, but it didn’t stop them.
Of course, schools and universities welcome Down syndrome students to enrol in classes or enrichment programmes, yet getting a degree is an entirely different story.
Although adjustments can be made to make the content more accessible, the onerous degree requirements apply to everybody who gets a regular Bachelor’s degree.
Rachel Handlin, one of the very few persons with Down syndrome to meet those prerequisites, graduated from California Institute of the Arts this year with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography & Media.
While specific figures are unknown, Mr. Handlin expressed that “out of all the individuals with Down syndrome in the world, those who have achieved a conventional college degree are actually approximately one in a million.” The Pediatric Therapy Network agreed with the estimate.
In the global Down syndrome population, college degree recipients are one in a million. Today, former PTN client Rachel Handlin will earn her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in photography and media from the California Institute of the Arts! We couldn’t be more proud of her! pic.twitter.com/fd0WjdbKx1— Momentum Pediatric Therapy Network (@PTN4Kids) May 15, 2020
Of fact, many people with Down syndrome are worthy of this accomplishment; they simply lack the chance or finances to seek it.
In fact, despite the fact that Down syndrome is so frequent, the Global Down Syndrome Foundation reports that it is one of the least-funded disorders for research by the National Institute of Health.
Handlin said of those who defy the odds that they’re the ones whose families rejected to deny their children’s prospects, who battled against unjust odds, social prejudices, low expectations, and institutions rigged against them, and nonetheless succeeded to triumph.
Rachel was introduced to “wonderful art” by the Handlin family when she was a baby.
He explained that the first time they brought her to the Musée d’Orsay, Laura was holding Rachel and it was like an electric charge surged through Rachel’s body. She had a deep, immediate bodily connection to the work.
She was given a Nikon Coolpix point-and-shoot digital camera for her ninth birthday, and that’s when she became interested in photography, attending lessons throughout high school to establish her portfolio.
That portfolio helped her get admission to CalArts, where she became the university’s first student with Down syndrome.
Handlin told the school that Everybody is respected for their individuality. It is perfect for Rachel since the only ‘normal’ is deviation.
Of course, her schooling was not without difficulties, and Rachel stayed off-campus with her mom to avoid the additional burden of learning to live independently while finishing her studies.
Nothing, however, can belittle her achievement, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
It is an accomplishment for anyone, but to excel while facing additional hurdles and prejudices is truly astounding. What a lovely, brilliant little lady, and what a fantastic, supporting father she has. I wish her the best of luck in her future endeavours. May 17, 2020 — Nick Pepper (@thenickpepper)
In the year 2020, Handlin isn’t the only Down syndrome graduate with overjoyed parents.
AnnaRose Rubright, of Glassboro, New Jersey, became the first person with Down syndrome to achieve a Bachelor’s degree from Rowan University. She has a background in radio, television, and film.
Congratulations to RCBC alumna AnnaRose Rubright for making history as the first person with Down Syndrome to graduate from Rowan University! Your inspiring story is making national headlines, and we can't wait to see what you accomplish! https://t.co/d9GocDchLm #WeAreRCBC pic.twitter.com/vlgx2vhGiN— RCBC (@RowanBurlington) May 21, 2020
It’s past time for us to take a fresh look at people with impairments.