On Tuesday Madison Essig became the first student with Down Syndrome to graduate from Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington D.C. with a full diploma.
“When Madison was born, we were told that she would walk, but there was no guarantee that she would ever read or write,” her mother, Kimberly Templeton, said.
Schools were often hesitant to let Madison study at the same pace as the other students, as no other student with Down Syndrome had ever graduated with a full high school diploma from D.C. Public Schools, according to the school system’s records, which date back to 1996.
Templeton didn’t want Madison to be labelled as “a kid with Down Syndrome.” She wanted her daughter to be able to achieve as much as she could, so she fought school administrators to allow her daughter to stay in the same classroom and be taught the same material as the other kids.
“Until she proves she can’t do it, let’s not stop her now,” she said.
“Don’t give up,” Essig said. “School will be your best friend even though you might not like it. It’s going to be a building block to a lot more stuff that’s going to help you in life. Let’s see where life takes me!”
Essig graduated with a 3.7 GPA, qualifying her for the National Honor Society. She plans to study disability and advocacy policy at George Mason University’s LIFE program, a four-year degree program for young adults with intellectual disabilities, where she has been accepted to attend beginning in the fall.