A woman with Down syndrome is believed to be the first person in Australia with the genetic disorder to graduate with a university degree — and her mother suspects her experience could help “change the world” for others like her.
Rachel High, 44, graduated this year from Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. It’s a powerful accomplishment that is gaining quite a bit of notice.
High’s 10-year academic journey culminated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama and screen studies, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
“It makes me feel great,” High said of the accomplishment.
And here’s why this story truly matters: stereotypes and assumptions can devalue others’ lives and hamper their potential. High’s mom, Miriam, told ABC News how she and her husband were once encouraged to simply put Rachel in a home and move on to have other children — advice the family clearly didn’t take.
Now, she believes her daughter, through her stunning accomplishment, could help spark a positive movement for others with intellectual disabilities.
“When Rachel was born 44 years ago, we were told that it would be a good idea if we put her in a home and went and had another child,” she said. “Here was this little girl, this baby, that people had such little hope for and now she might be changing the world for other people as a result of this.”
The path wasn’t easy, though, especially considering some of the challenges and uncertainties High faced at the beginning of her education journey.
She told ABC News she initially faced social isolation, with not many people wanting to talk with her. Some, she said, initially didn’t seem to want her there. While High at first wanted to quit, she pushed on.
Her parents brought in a paid helper and the university later offered a mentor, and soon High made friends and the social aspects of the experience improved.
Now, she’s elated she graduated, and she’s hoping her hard work helps change minds about what’s possible for people with Down syndrome.
“The stereotypes [are things] they should ignore,” she told ABC News. “People like me should ignore that and work on it to teach them a lesson.”
High also completed a scholarly journal article about her experience titled, “Graduating University as a Woman with Down Syndrome: Reflecting on My Education.” It’s yet another opportunity for her to inspire others who face disabilities, while also helping colleges and universities better understand these prospective students’ needs.
Read the full story here.
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