Close to 600 students graduated from Murray State University Saturday including Alexis Cain, who's accomplished several firsts during her time here.
Cain is the first woman to receive a College to Career Certificate of Completion in Kentucky. It's part of the comprehensive transition program or the SHEP program (supported higher education project).
The program allows students with intellectual disabilities to get a higher education apply for Pell grants, Kees money, or federal work study without needing a high school diploma.
Alexis’ father Brad said he’s so proud of his daughter.
“I've always told my daughter she can be anything she puts her mind to and she just continues to lead by example, and she wants to be an example for others with disabilities… She is,” Brad said.
As Cain walked up to grab her diploma, she had one thing to say to the crowd.
“Be the change,” Cain said.
It’s a phrase that could define her year.
This year Cain became the first person with Down syndrome to join a social sorority at MSU. It landed her an opportunity to go on the Meredith Vieira show and meet her idol Taylor Swift.
College Career Experience Program Coordinator Sharon Arrant said the SHEP program is very rewarding, but worries that federal funding in Kentucky has not been renewed yet for next fall.
“It's just a very rewarding program for the students and all the students that we've had so far have become an integral part of our campus life,” Arant said
MSU receives some funding from the Kentucky Office Vocational Rehabilitation but another portion is from federal funding. Arant says it will depend on the amount of students for next fall, but MSU hopes to find enough funding to continue the program.
“22 years ago, if you had told us that we would see her in college, joining a sorority, being on a national talk show, meeting Taylor Swift, I don't know what we would have said,” Camme said.
Cain says her family considering opening a food-related business that provides opportunities for others with disabilities to work there. If you would like to help her goals by donating you can contact the Cain family at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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