Bachelor’s degrees are difficult to obtain, especially for those with disabilities. AnnaRose Rubright persevered despite having Down syndrome and proved that she could achieve her goals despite her disability.
Early in May, she saw the results of her labor. She earned a bachelor’s degree in radio, television, and film from Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. With this achievement, AnnaRose became the first student with Down syndrome to receive a certificate from the institute.
Due to COVID-19 fears, the event was broadcast on Zoom. Speakers at the event included Rowan University President Ali Houshmand and New Jersey State Senator Steve Sweeney. AnnaRose’s graduation ceremony was particularly heartbreaking because graduations are normally happy occasions. Her family members also shed tears during the virtual affair, which she described as “extremely emotional” and “a little overwhelming.”
AnnaRose’s family knows 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, granted her an associate’s degree in 2017. After that, she transferred to Rowan University.
AnnaRose’s path to a bachelor’s degree was not without obstacles, especially as a student with Down syndrome.
Lin Rubright, AnnaRose’s mother, explained that there isn’t much time for free exercise during the school year. Because, depending on the context and language, what takes you or me 20 minutes to read could take AnnaRose an hour to three hours.”
Rowan University enrolled 2,400 students with special needs in the previous academic year, including AnnaRose. John Woodruff, director of the university’s academic success center and disability resources, says 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.'” “The standards are not lower.” “They all share the same goal of completing and passing the course.”
Initiatives have been established to assist students with special needs to meet their academic obligations. Tutoring and partnering with graduate students are examples. AnnaRose was able to benefit from them during her time at university as they improved her time management and organizational skills.
AnnaRose’s family made sure that she didn’t feel rushed while studying, even telling her at one point to take a break.
When I saw her frustration and struggle, I told her, ‘You have an associate’s degree, you can be done if you want, you’ve already accomplished so much,’ Lin said. “Nonetheless, she refused to give up.”
AnnaRose, on the other hand, sought out even more opportunities for growth. During her time at Rowan, she was inducted into Delta Alpha Pi, a national honor society for students with special needs, presented at the United Nations, lobbyed legislators in Washington, D.C., and Trenton for disability rights, and produced several videos for the National Down Syndrome Society.
Her diverse experiences led AnnaRose to develop an interest in web media, documentary, podcasts, and storytelling. One day, she hopes to work in radio with her family’s production company.The business will serve as a platform for AnnaRose to share the stories of people with disabilities.
The next chapter of AnnaRose’s story begins as she offers advice for students with special needs who want to earn a bachelor’s degree like her.
By advocating for yourself, you will be heard in the real world.