Rachel Handlin earned her full Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography and Media from the California Institute of the Arts.
There is perhaps no better feeling than seeing your children achieve their goals. This is especially true when you have seen them struggle through all the challenges that made their journey more difficult than it had to be. For Jay Handlin, Rachel Handlin's father, watching his daughter earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and Media from the California Institute of the Arts was his proudest moment ever. She was diagnosed with Down syndrome when she was born. As we all know, academia is filled with ableism. Therefore, when his daughter officially graduated, he declared himself the "proudest father on the planet."
He took to Twitter in order to make the special announcement. Posting a beautiful black and white photo of his daughter, he wrote, "This is my daughter, Rachel Handlin. Tonight, she earned her full Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography and Media from the prestigious California Institute of the Arts. Rachel has Down syndrome. I am officially the proudest father on the planet. Fight me." His tweet immediately went viral. Since it was first posted, it has received over 19,300 retweets and 222,300 likes. The replies were particularly heartwarming. Congratulations and love came pouring in from folks all over the world.
One Twitter user, posting a photo of their own daughter with Down syndrome, responded, "Sure - I'll fight you. This is my four-year-old daughter, Isabelle. She too has Down syndrome. Congratulations to your daughter and thank you both for paving the way so my daughter can have the same future." To this, Handlin said it was a "long road" when it comes to raising a child with Down syndrome, but that it was definitely worth it. He added, "Your daughter is beautiful." Others pointed out how far we have come when it comes to accepting neurodivergent learners in mainstream spaces.
"It’s such an amazing accomplishment when you think that not too long ago kids like Rachel and my niece were shunned from society and the eyes of the world," one user wrote. "These children are special for only the greatest reasons and we are privileged and lucky to have them in our lives." Other users still recognized the commitment and dedication of the Handlin parents. A user stated, " I want to hug you and your beautiful daughter. I’m saving this post, [it's] so positive and uplifting. Way to go, Handlins! And thank you for sharing." Needless to say, Rachel Handlin's graduation was celebrated not just by her family, but all those who learned about her achievement.
The new graduate posts some of her work on Instagram. Over the years, she has documented her time at college, showcasing her work for everyone to see. She even posted a photo of herself on graduation day, wearing a blue graduation t-shirt. Nonetheless, this is only the beginning of the photographer's journey. She is on her way to create meaningful art that will change how we look at folks with Down syndrome, an important role in a world plagued by ableism.