Born with Down syndrome, Dylan Kuehl has been told the words “no” and “can’t” more times than he can count, but none of those rejections fazed him.
“Nothing scares me!” he said. “They should not be saying that to me in the first place.”
As he has done so many times before, Dylan proved the skeptics wrong once again when he earned his bachelor’s degree from The Evergreen State College (TESC). In doing so, the 38-year-old became the first graduate with Down syndrome in the college’s 51-year history.
He is also the first person with Down syndrome to attend TESC and the first person in Washington State with Down syndrome to attend a four-year college.
Dylan received a Bachelor of Arts with a focus on writing. Among his favorite classes were painting and dance.
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade out of it,” he said.
He was one of only three students out of the nearly 900 graduates selected to give a speech at the ceremony.
“I see the greatness in all of our graduates,” he said in the recorded message.
“I have to say. Wow. I never thought I would make it this far,” he continued. “When I first started, I had people tell me I wasn’t ready for college. It discouraged me. Instead of giving up, I built a ‘Yes Team.’”
“Celebrate your abilities. Live your life with ambition and pride,” he said in his speech. “Yes, I am the very first person to graduate here, but I’m not going to be the last.”
Dylan also thanked his fellow students, teachers, tutors, and his mother for their help in getting his diploma.
In a 2017 interview published on Ruby’s Rainbow, Dylan shared his three favorite things about college: being a student, having summer and winter breaks, and being the son of a TESC alumnus.
Dylan’s mom, Terri Rose, is an alumnus of the college.
“I want her to have the memories of my success so she can have the courage to say “That’s my son!” at graduation ceremonies,” he said.
Dylan said that he grew so much during his second year in college. He became a better person and started to open up to new people, allowing him to make new friends.
Graduating from college is just one of Dylan’s many achievements. In 2005, he started his own visual and performing arts company called DK ARTS, where he sells his own artwork and fused glass jewelry.
Dylan is passionate about music and hopes to make a children’s album one day. Until then, he plays the drums with the band “Living the Dream,” whose mission is to promote inclusivity through music.
On June 17, 2016, Dylan, who formed the “Jackson Memory Band” after Michael Jackson’s death in 2009, also got to meet the legend’s family—mom Katherine, brother Jermaine, and son Blanket.
During their meeting, which was made possible by the non-profit organization, Gifts from the Heart for Downs, Dylan showed off his Michael Jackson dance moves in the same ballroom where the Jackson 5 rehearsed in Los Angeles.
Dylan hopes to inspire others with his story.
“When I am faced with a challenge in life I look for ways to overcome it and find a path to reach my dreams,” he said.
Click on the video below to learn more about Dylan’s story.
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