This May, AnnaRose Rubright became the first person with Down syndrome to graduate from Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in radio, television, and film, with a minor in journalism. 

AnnaRose Rubright in her cap and gown, holding her diploma at Rowan University. Photo courtesy of Frank Ieradi
AnnaRose Rubright in her cap and gown, holding her diploma at Rowan University. Photo courtesy of Frank Ieradi

AnnaRose’s path to inclusion began in second grade, when her parents created the Anna Foundation for Inclusive Education, which provides educational support such as peer tutoring for students with disabilities attending inclusive schools. The oldest of six girls, AnnaRose wanted to set an example for her younger siblings — especially her youngest sister Rachel, who also has Down syndrome.

Her mother, Lin Rubright, who is currently a full-time student at Rowan University and works part-time for the National Down Syndrome Society, said that AnnaRose “thinks for herself and does her own thing; when she decides to do something, she goes all the way.” She explained that college was a big commitment for her: “What might take you and I fifteen minutes to read takes Anna an hour to three hours to read, depending on the content. So when they say you have to do three hours of every credit hour of school that you take, and compound that to another times-three for her disability, the slow processing speeds and lack of memory, and the fact that she has to write more things down, you’re talking about a really serious commitment. And during a global pandemic.”

Rowan University’s virtual graduation ceremony was also special for the commencement speaker, New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, as his daughter has Down syndrome. “AnnaRose proved everybody wrong," he said. Forbes also covered this historic graduation. 
 
AnnaRose is no stranger to media attention: she has addressed a panel at the United Nations, lobbied legislators in Washington, D.C., and Trenton, NJ, for disability rights, and created multiple videos for the National Down Syndrome Society. In 2013, AnnaRose and her boyfriend were separated while watching a movie at an AMC theater after accidentally sitting in the wrong seats; instead of moving them to the proper seats, the general manager moved them to the back of the theater on opposite sides of the aisle. She viewed the discriminatory incident as a teaching opportunity and returned to work with the theater to implement employee training when working with people with cognitive disabilities.
 
Three years later, she narrated a short video starring actress Olivia Wilde called “How Do You See Me?” to commemorate World Down Syndrome Day. An avid storyteller, AnnaRose also recently started a production company with her family so she can make documentaries and podcasts that tell stories impacting the disability community, including “Law Syndrome,” which she describes as antiquated laws that unfairly allow companies to profit off people with disabilities. 
 
To see what AnnaRose is working on, follow her on Twitter

 

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