A bachelor’s degree is difficult to obtain, especially for those with disabilities. Despite having down syndrome, AnnaRose Rubright persevered and demonstrated that she could achieve her goals despite her handicap.
The 24-year-old eventually saw the fruits of her labor in early May. Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, awarded her a bachelor’s degree in radio, television, and film. AnnaRose became the first student with Down syndrome to get a certificate from the institute with this achievement.
Because of COVID-19 fears, the event was broadcast on Zoom. Dr. Ali Houshmand, the president of Rowan University, and New Jersey State Senator Steve Sweeney were among the speakers at the event. While graduation ceremonies are normally happy moments, AnnaRose’s was particularly heartbreaking. She described it as “extremely emotional” and “a little overpowering.” During the virtual affair, the majority of her family members also shed a few tears.
AnnaRose’s family has firsthand experience with how hard she worked to further her education. She graduated from Shawnee High School in 2014, and Rowan College, a community college affiliated with Rowan University, awarded her an associate’s degree in 2017. She quickly transferred to the university after that.
AnnaRose’s path to a bachelor’s degree was not without obstacles, especially for a student with Down syndrome.
“There isn’t a lot of time for free exercise throughout the school year,” AnnaRose’s mother, Lin Rubright, explained. “She’s working and plugging away at the kitchen table.” Because, depending on the context and language, what takes you or me 20 minutes to read could take AnnaRose anywhere from an hour to three hours.”
During the previous academic year, Rowan University enrolled 2,400 students with special needs, including AnnaRose. According to John Woodruff, director of the university’s academic success center and disability resources, students like AnnaRose are held to the same high standards as the rest of the student body.
“No courses for AnnaRose or other disabled students have been ‘watered down.’ He stated, “The standards are not lower.” “They all share the same goal of finishing and passing the course.”
The institution has put in place initiatives to assist students with special needs in meeting their academic obligations. Tutoring and partnering them with graduate students are two examples. They help with time management and organizational skills, which AnnaRose benefited from during her time at university.
AnnaRose’s family made sure she didn’t feel rushed while studying, even telling her to take a break at one point.
“There were times when I saw her frustration and struggle and told her, ‘You have an associates degree, you can be done if you want, you’ve already accomplished so much,” Lin said. “However, she refused to give up.”
AnnaRose, on the other hand, sought out even more possibilities to grow. She was inducted into the Delta Alpha Pi, a national honor society for students with special needs, spoke on a panel at the United Nations, lobbied legislators in Washington, D.C., and Trenton for disability rights, and produced several videos for the National Down Syndrome Society during her time at Rowan.
AnnaRose acquired her enthusiasm for web media, documentary, podcasts, and storytelling through her diverse experiences. Her family is collaborating with her to build their own production firm, and she intends to work in radio one day.
AnnaRose intends to utilize the business as a platform to convey stories of persons with disabilities.
AnnaRose has advise for students with special needs who want to acquire a bachelor’s degree like her as she begins the next chapter of her story.
“Be heard in the real world by advocating for yourself,” she advised.