Man becomes first to graduate from his college with Down syndrome and makes state history

He’s the first but he won’t be the last.

Dylan Keuhl’s class has a lot to celebrate but one of those is marking a milestone event for their college.

This graduation was not only a celebration of academic excellence but of inclusivity and diversity as well.

Kuehl has Down syndrome.

And as a person living differently than others, being told he can’t go far is unfortunately all too common for him. But today, wearing his toga and sash, he marches with pride.

Kuehl is the first-ever graduate with Down syndrome in the college’s 51-year history.

In a recorded speech, Kuehl thanked everyone who has been part of his journey.

He thanked his parents for supporting him all the way and for the people who “gave him the tools” to succeed in pursuing his dreams.

He shared that a lot of people told him that he was not ready for college. The statements discouraged him.

But now, he’s forging a different story.

The 38-year-old graduate received a Bachelor of Arts “with an emphasis” on writing. As a man of the arts, his list of favorite subjects included painting and dance.

1 out of 900.

Out of the almost 900 students chosen to give a speech, he was one of the three who were chosen.

“I have to say, ‘Wow, I never thought I would make it this far,’” Kuehl said. “I am the very first person with down syndrome to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the entire state of Washington. Now I am starting a new journey.”

They also showed photos of Keuhl in the recorded speech. The photos included snapshots of his life at the university.

He also shared that to overcome the discouragement from people’s doubts, he surrounded himself with people that supported him. He called this group his “Yes Team”.

He reiterated the impact of the Evergreen State College in his life.

“Evergreen is based on acceptance.” He said in the video. “So many other students, like me, can have a right to be included. Diversity and inclusion create a well-rounded community for us all.”

His graduation is not only proof of what people like Keuhl can achieve but also a reminder that a community can empower each of its members through mutual respect and support, inclusivity, and hope.

Kuehl certainly proved his doubters wrong.

With his achievement, Kuehl hopes that he can inspire other people to not give up on their dreams.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade out of it.” Kuehl echoed the age-old saying when he described the rollercoaster of events that led him to where he is now.

He had a message to send.

And while he thanked the people around him, he wanted to make something clear.

He said that he may have been surrounded by students, tutors, teachers, and supportive parents, but the degree he achieved was given to him through his own hard work and determination.

“Celebrate your abilities. Live your life with ambition and pride,” Kuehl said, “Yes, I am the very first person to graduate here, but I’m not going to be the last.”

Learn more about how Kuehl broke boundaries with his graduation in the video below!

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